President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered a primetime address during which he attempted to convince Americans of the importance of continued aid to both Israel and Ukraine amid ongoing conflicts in those countries.
“We’re facing an inflection point in history,” he said, before recounting his recent trip to Israel and highlighting the death toll of an Oct. 7 terrorist attack on that country by the terrorist group Hamas.
“We’ve not forgotten the mass graves,” he then said of the dead in Ukraine. “Hamas and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common. They both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy.”
“I know these conflicts can seem far away. And it’s natural to ask ‘why does this matter to Americans?'” he conceded, before insisting that dictators and terrorists would cause more chaos if left unpunished for their aggression. “[Putin] won’t limit himself just to Ukraine… If Putin attacks a NATO ally, we will defend every inch of NATO,” Biden continued, before insisting that “[w]e do not seek to have American troops fighting in Russia or fighting against Russia.”
“American leadership is what holds the world together,” Biden declared, announcing that on Friday he would send Congress an emergency funding request including funds for both nations. The inclusion of both in the same proposal appears to be an attempt to incentivize and push members of both parties to back the plan.
Republicans have generally soured on further aid to Ukraine, due in part to concerns over corruption in that country and doubts as to the value of bolstering the non-NATO country against the Russians. Public support for Ukraine has declined over the course of the conflict and an August CNN poll revealed that 55% of the public opposed further aid.
On the Republican side, support for Israel is broadly popular and voting against the package due to its inclusion of Ukraine aid would force the GOP to vote against Israel funding. Conversely, the inclusion of Ukraine aid presents the same dilemma for Democrats hesitant to commit to backing Israel. Support for further Ukraine aid is popular with that party, though it remains more divided over the administration’s decision to back Israel over the Palestinians.
Several members of the far-left “Squad,” have openly expressed opposition to Israel and its handling of the ongoing conflict. Notable among them is Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who participated Wednesday in a protest demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza that saw demonstrators stage a sit-in at the Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill.
Whether the gambit will win over broad bipartisan support for another aid package remains to be seen. Adding to Republican concerns is an ongoing budget battle. Among the contributing factors to the conservative ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were frustrations over budget negotiations and the absence of major spending cuts in a deal he reached with the Biden administration earlier this year.
Many Republicans have cited the nation’s finances as justification for opposing military aid to a foreign nation. The merits of the package and Biden’s arguments remain irrelevant, however, while the House of Representatives remains without a speaker, without which the chamber may not approve any funding requests at all.
Republicans appeared skeptical of Biden’s attempt to link Israel and Ukraine aid.
Senior Trump advisor Jason Miller satirically summarized Biden’s pitch as a plan to solve geopolitical problems by addressing unrelated issues.
“If you care about the People of Israel, please authorize tens of billions of dollars in military aid for the People of Ukraine, taking us closer toward WWIII,” he posted. “And if you care about combatting anti-Semitism here in the United States, combat Islamophobia. And take a principled stand against Putin.”
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee also derided Biden for seemingly suggesting “that anyone who disagrees with his particular approach to Ukraine is driven by ‘petty, partisan politics.'”
Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance excoriated the president for attempting to use the situation in Israel to force through aid for Ukraine.
“What Biden is doing is disgusting. He’s using dead children in Israel to sell his disastrous Ukraine policy to skeptical Americans,” he said. “They are not the same countries, they are not the same problems, and this effort to use Israel for political cover is offensive.”