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House Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan for money to Israel collapsed, leaving Democrats fuming. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Democrats Are Livid With Their Options for Israel and Ukraine Funding

Stand-alone funding for Israel failed in the House, and the broader plan looks doomed in the Senate. Republican leaders are “unfit to govern,” one member told NOTUS.

Pro-Israel House Democrats are caught in an uncomfortable political position: voting against additional funding to Israel they’ve been advocating for, with extremely dim hopes for a bipartisan plan to even make it out of the Senate.

In total, 166 Democrats voted against House Speaker Mike Johnson’s stand-alone bill for $17 billion in military funding to Israel brought to the floor Tuesday, and 46 voted in favor. While House Democratic leadership all urged colleagues to vote no, other House Democrats confirmed to NOTUS that there was no official whip being done to keep the party united.

The bill’s collapse came as part of a nightlong debacle for House Republicans, coming directly after a failed attempt to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The twin failures put Republicans in the spotlight, but the Israel funding has also left some Democrats squirming. The pro-Israel Democrats who didn’t vote for the funding said their vote came down to the bill’s lack of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, and ultimately the concern that passing Israel money alone would take away any chance of passing funds to Ukraine as well.

Ahead of the vote, Rep. Jim McGovern put it bluntly to NOTUS, saying Republican leadership is “unfit to govern and the idea that they’re playing games with the lives of Ukrainians, that they’re helping [Vladimir] Putin out, they don’t give a damn about getting humanitarian aid to the Palestinians — they’re disgusting.”

Hours before the vote failed, Johnson had already indicated to reporters that the chances are high that he would bring it forward again next week. Don’t expect Democrats to budge.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, one of the most outspoken House Democrats for additional funds to Israel, said the bill had nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with House Republicans. “This grotesque political maneuver is a blatant attempt to turn Israel’s security into a political football, and I refuse to participate in it,” he said.

Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida broke from her party to vote for the bill, despite the exclusion of humanitarian aid for Gaza or funding for Ukraine.

“I can only vote for what’s before me. If Democrats were in charge of this place here, we could have a perfect bill,” she said.

Frankel didn’t blame her colleagues who voted against it. Since Johnson and Republican leadership knew the vote was doomed to fail hours before it began, she said it should never have been brought to the floor in the first place.

“They knew we didn’t have the votes, and I just think it’s bad for Israel to send any kind of message that we’re not united for them,” Frankel said.

But among the pro-Israel Democrats who voted against the bill, the mood of the day was anger. The House GOP “would rather have this chaos and dysfunction than come to a solution, they’re putting our own national security at risk and I hope the Senate will move Ukraine aid forward quickly to us,” House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark told NOTUS after Tuesday’s vote.

Even if Johnson does try again with another vote next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already said he won’t bring it to the floor, and President Joe Biden said he would veto it.

The Senate’s alternative is also facing growing opposition from the party’s House progressive wing, including calls for additional oversight as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 27,000 this week. The funding for Ukraine also isn’t enough for some to overlook other parts of the bill they oppose, including the border security measures.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the progressive caucus — but noted she was speaking on her own behalf and that the caucus has not taken a position on military funding to Israel — said the border policies prevent her support of Ukraine funds in the Senate bill.

“I do support aid to Ukraine and I’m really infuriated by Republican attempts to hold Ukraine aid hostage to extreme border policies,” she told NOTUS. But even “if you pull the border out, I think there are still a significant portion of people who would not vote for the aid to Israel without conditions.”

The pro-Israel PAC J Street opposed Johnson’s stand-alone funding bill because of the exclusion of humanitarian aid to Gaza, but isn’t fully supporting the bipartisan Senate plan in its current version, calling for additional oversight amendments.

While most House Democrats — save for the most progressive in the party — are still pushing for Israel to be addressed in a broader security supplemental, if Johnson moves forward with again addressing Israel separately, Democrats will once more be caught in the middle.

“I think it’s complicated for many people who want to support Israel,” Jayapal said. “And I think they are worried that the public is not going to understand that Republicans are playing games.”

Katherine Swartz and Claire Heddles are NOTUS reporters and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows.