Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin testify on Biden’s funding request

WASHINGTON — The House and the Senate are at odds over how to proceed with President ’s sweeping funding request for foreign aid and national security goals.

On Tuesday, the Senate sought to bolster its position of approving the measure in one package at a hearing called “A Review of the National Security Supplemental Request,” where Secretary of State and Defense Secretary made their case for the full spending measure.

Their testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to be critical in the Democratic-led Senate’s crafting and passing a bill to respond to the administration’s $105 billion request, covering aid to Ukraine and Israel, efforts to contain China and tougher border security in the U.S.

“This is all one fight, and we have to respond in a way that recognizes that,” Blinken told the panel. “If we start to pull off pieces of this package, they’ll see that and know we are playing whack-a-mole while they cooperate increasingly and pose an ever greater threat to our security and that of our allies and partners.”

Austin added bluntly that without U.S. support for Ukraine, Russian President “will be successful” in “acquiring his neighbor’s sovereign territory.”

Their position found a warm reception in the Senate, where Appropriations Committee Chair , D-Wash., and Vice Chair , R-Maine, backed the view that the provisions are connected and should be advanced together.

“We need a package that treats each of these crises seriously, and that’s exactly what I’m working on drafting with Sen. Collins,” Murray told reporters after the hearing. “We must take a full view of this moment.”

But the Republican-controlled House plans to break off the Israel aid and pass it this week, attached to IRS funding cuts that Biden and Democrats firmly oppose, said newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who faces pressure from GOP hard-liners to cut spending alongside emergency funding for Israel.

Some Republican senators are backing Johnson’s approach.

“If we’re going to cut something, I’d love to cut the IRS,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “So I would say that I’m all in favor of cutting the IRS.”

The White House on Tuesday said Biden would veto the House GOP bill if it were to reach his desk, and Democratic allies blasted Johnson’s plan.

“That’s a recipe for disaster,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “I had a brief moment of hope that the House might be getting their act together, but that sounds disastrous to me.”

Murphy also said the foreign aid measures should move together.

“Moving them separately is an invitation to hand Ukraine to Putin. I do not see how we have the time between now and the end of November to do a [government funding bill], Ukraine aid and Israel aid separately,” he said. “So you have to package these two together.”

Multiple Democrats noted that the extra IRS funding, approved under Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act last year, has been analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and found to be a net revenue raiser. The provision is expected to be used to beef up tax collection among wealthy individuals and entities.

“Speaker Johnson’s top priority as speaker is to provide aid to Israel and cut revenue to the federal government? Doesn’t sound like a great deal to me,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

Some Republican senators warned that the proposal would need to change before it could reach Biden’s desk.

“It is not in proper form right now — the White House should know that. Ukraine is important; Israel is important,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “But when you talk about the border, we’re talking about actual border security. They’re talking about spending money moving people away from the border. That’s not going to be acceptable. So they have to make some major changes in what they were proposing to spend the money on.”

Rounds added: “I think the appropriate place to start is in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and they’ll get lots of feedback on it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., endorsed the package of funds Monday, making an impassioned case to “help Ukraine win the war” to protect American security.

“If Russia prevails, there’s no question that Putin’s appetite for empire will extend to NATO, raising the threat to the U.S. trans-Atlantic alliance and the risk of war for America. Such an outcome would demand greater permanent deployment of our military force in Europe, a much greater cost than the support we have provided to Ukraine,” he said at the University of Louisville alongside Ukraine’s ambassador, Oksana Markarova. “And, of course, Russian victory would embolden Putin’s growing alliance with fellow authoritarian regimes in Iran and China.”

“So this is not just a test for Ukraine,” McConnell said. “It’s a test for the United States and the free world.”

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