Two of President Joe Biden’s top advisers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss Biden’s request for $106 billion in funding for Ukraine, Israel, and U.S. border security. However, the hearing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters who accused American officials of supporting “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. The protesters were eventually removed from the room by Capitol police.
Biden’s funding request includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine, with half of that amount being spent in the United States to replenish weapons stocks. He also requested $14.3 billion for Israel, $9 billion for humanitarian relief in Israel and Gaza, $13.6 billion for U.S. border security, $4 billion in military assistance, and government financing to counter China’s regional efforts in Asia.
During the hearing, Blinken did not respond to the protesters directly but later stated that while a ceasefire could be considered for humanitarian reasons, it could also potentially consolidate the actions of Hamas. He emphasized the importance of considering humanitarian pauses to ensure assistance reaches those in need and to protect civilians.
Blinken expressed the belief that Gaza should not be governed by Hamas or Israel in the future. Instead, he suggested that an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” could ultimately govern the strip, with support from other countries in the region under temporary arrangements.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin addressed the ongoing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed groups. He warned that if the attacks continue, the U.S. will respond accordingly. Austin also emphasized the importance of U.S. support for Ukraine, stating that without it, Russian President Vladimir Putin would be successful in his actions.
The path forward for Biden’s funding plan remains uncertain. While Democrats support combining Ukraine aid with support for Israel, some Republicans, particularly those aligned with former President Donald Trump, object to this approach. They question whether the U.S. should be funding Ukraine’s war with Russia instead of focusing on other priorities such as backing Israel or countering China.
Congress has already approved $113 billion for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. However, the White House has stated that it has less than $5.5 billion in funds remaining to transfer weapons to Ukrainian forces. The funding plan faces opposition from Republicans in the House of Representatives, who have introduced a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel by cutting funding for the Internal Revenue Service.
Biden’s support for Israel has drawn criticism, particularly in light of international appeals for the protection of Gaza civilians. Israel recently launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in response to attacks by Hamas militants. Palestinian authorities claim that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many children, and has created a dire humanitarian situation.
During the hearing, Blinken mentioned that around 400 U.S. citizens and their family members are currently in Gaza and are seeking assistance to leave. The Department of State is working on the issue but has not yet found a solution.
Overall, the hearing highlighted the ongoing debate and divisions among lawmakers regarding funding priorities, particularly in relation to Ukraine, Israel, and U.S. national security interests.
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