In the latest sign that Republican senators are deeply divided over tying Ukraine aid to Israel funding, Sen. Lindsey Graham said it would be a “huge mistake” to separate the two after hearing Secretary of State Antony testify. Blinken, and the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
“I support the package staying together. “I think Secretary Blinken and Austin gave a good answer as to why we shouldn’t split it,” he told reporters outside the hearing, a notable shift after he indicated Monday that he would be willing to pass a standalone bill to support Israel.
“At the end of the day, I think all of these conflicts need to be addressed firmly and they need to be addressed together,” Graham continued.
The South Carolina senator’s comments come as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House, push to pass a relief package that funds both countries. , even as the new Republican Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, said. that he expects a stand-alone aid package for Israel to reach the House on Thursday.
McConnell has argued that the two wars are critical to U.S. security and should be linked, a position expressed by other senior Republicans and the Biden White House, which formally threatened to veto the standalone Israel aid bill. the House in a statement Tuesday. But a sizable bloc of Republican senators believe the two should separate.
“At the risk of repeating myself, the threats facing the United States and our allies are serious and intertwined,” McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “If we ignore that fact, we do so at our own peril.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican and supporter of aid to Ukraine, made a similar argument to CNN. in support of linking the two wars and said who ultimately does not believe a stand-alone package will pass both chambers.
“There may be an effort by a small vocal minority to try to wag the dog, so to speak. But that’s not going to happen, I don’t think so. I think, in the final analysis, we will see that the vast majority of people in the House and Senate get their way,” he told CNN. “My view is that a substantial majority of House members, as well as a substantial majority of senators, support Ukraine and Israel, together.”
Romney also rejected the House proposal to cut money from the Internal Revenue Service to pay for an aid package to Israel, saying it “doesn’t make much sense” to reduce funding for an institution that ensures people pay their taxes in full.
But Senate Republicans remain divided over McConnell’s push to link aid to Ukraine with a package for Israel; Several of his conservative colleagues say they should follow the House’s lead and pass the Israel package first.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul attacked his fellow Kentuckian, accusing him of trying to undermine newly minted President Johnson and arguing that the conservative base will reject McConnell’s approach.
“I think he’s wrong,” Paul told CNN. “I think if you contrast it with his opinion during the debt ceiling agreement, it was like we don’t intervene, we have to wait and give the House space, here it’s more or less the opposite approach.”
Paul also said he supports Johnson’s move to rescind $14.3 billion in IRS enforcement funds to pay for a standalone bill to fund Israel, adding that he believes the Senate’s top Republican is “trying” to hurt Johnson. .
“I think he’s trying, and I think it’s a mistake because it’s also a challenge to most conservatives in the party,” Paul told CNN. “So I think McConnell’s position is very, very unpopular in Kentucky but also very, very unpopular in the United States, and I think it will ultimately fail or bring down the speaker, which I don’t think is a good idea.”
Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who challenged McConnell as minority leader last year, also said he believes the Senate should follow the House GOP’s lead and “not undermine” the newly elected president.
“We have a Republican majority in the House and so we should listen to the way they want to do it,” he said. “I understand that President Johnson has been clear. He is not going to combine aid to Ukraine with aid to Israel. And I completely agree with him.”
Freshman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., agreed that in his view, McConnell’s push to merge the two issues is misguided.
“I don’t think they should be linked and we should separate them,” he told CNN. “There is a growing sentiment in our conference to do that.”
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, also of Missouri, criticized McConnell’s push for aid to Ukraine to also be included in the supplement, calling it a “mistake.”
“I think it’s notable that he’s siding with Schumer against the Republicans,” he told CNN.
While the Senate GOP has remained divided on the issue, Senate Democrats have been in unison as they sound the alarm. Schumer on Tuesday mocked the House bill as “insulting” after telling CNN on Monday that Johnson’s push to include spending cuts makes aid to Israel “much harder to pass.” in the upper house.
Schumer said he is disappointed by Johnson’s bill that includes no funding for Ukraine but cuts IRS funding, suggesting the president should have learned from the failures of his predecessors and insisting that “emergency foreign aid should not be be compensated.”
“Recipe for disaster,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said of the GOP approach. And Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said Monday that the GOP push to separate the two issues was a “mistake.”
Sen. Chris Coons, a close ally of President Joe Biden, also attacked House Republicans’ plan to offset funding for Israel, arguing that it will “reduce revenue” in the long run.
“President Johnson’s top priority as president is providing aid to Israel and cutting federal government revenue. “It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me,” he said.
CNN’s Haley Talbot and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.