Biden's Ambitious Military Package Faces Challenges
Upon his return from Israel following the Israel-Hamas conflict, President Biden has proposed a substantial military package worth $100 billion to Congress. However, this comprehensive package encompassing Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan faces significant obstacles.
The concept of military aid packages has become a recurring theme, particularly since the Ukraine conflict. This time, it resurfaces through the lens of Israel. President Joe Biden, in his national address after visiting Israel, stated, "We are facing an inflection point in history where the decisions we make today will determine the future and decades to come." He announced his intention to send a substantial $100 billion military aid package to Congress. Importantly, this package extends beyond Israel.
A Congressional Challenge
President Biden emphasized that the package serves both Israel and Ukraine. However, reports from the Australian media outlet ABC News indicate that only $10 billion of this package is allocated for Israel. Conversely, American news agency Bloomberg suggests that the package includes Taiwan as well. Nonetheless, there is a consensus that Ukraine is the primary beneficiary of this package. Why did the Biden administration consolidate its support for these countries into a single package? The answer lies in a pressing domestic crisis narrowly averted.
The U.S. government teetered on the brink of a shutdown last month. In the United States, a government shutdown occurs if Congress fails to approve the minimum of the annual budget needed for government to function. Such a situation results in civil servants not receiving their salaries, and bureaucratic functions grinding to a halt. This time, the impasse was linked to Ukraine.
Republican Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, had campaigned on a promise to "cut off support for Ukraine." This promise made it more challenging for new packages to gain parliamentary approval. The crisis reached its zenith when an agreement on the annual budget proved elusive. With just days remaining before the October 1st budget deadline, McCarthy struck a deal with the Biden administration. A 45-day budget was approved, contingent on the removal of Ukraine aid from the package. However, a statement by President Biden exacerbated the crisis within the Republican Party. Biden mentioned that he and Speaker McCarthy had "agreed to support Ukraine in future budgets."
This declaration incited the ire of some Trump-aligned members of the party. House member Matt Gaetz, a longstanding critic of McCarthy's leadership, pushed for a vote to remove McCarthy from office. This effort resulted in McCarthy becoming the first Speaker of the House of Representatives to be impeached in U.S. history.
Israel’s name For Ukraine’s weapons
This crisis highlights the Republicans' determination to curtail aid to Ukraine. Conversely, when it comes to Israel, many Republicans consistently support aid packages and criticize Biden for not offering enough support. Biden, aware of this political landscape, has combined the two aid packages. This strategic move allows him to exert pressure on Republicans opposing the Ukraine package by accusing them of "refusing aid to Israel."
Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader of the Republican Party, was among the first to express support for the package. McConnell, who has previously approved Ukraine-related policies, has had disagreements with former President Trump. Consequently, the reactions of Trump and other party members to this extensive package remain to be seen. Trump has not commented on the matter yet. However, Senator James David Vance expressed his displeasure, stating, "What the president did is disgraceful. If he wants to sell the American people on $60B more to Ukraine, he shouldn't use dead Israeli children to do it." Clearly, debates surrounding this package are inevitable.
The Speaker of the House crisis remains unresolved. Pro-Trump figure Jim Jordan, nominated to replace McCarthy, has yet to assume office. In initial ballots, 20 Republican members voted against Jordan, and this number increased to 22 in subsequent votes. After 15 rounds of voting, McCarthy succeeded in convincing his opponents. The outcome for Jim Jordan's candidacy remains uncertain. Resolving the Speaker of the House issue is vital for Biden, as the package's passage hinges on this matter.
Chaos at the U.S. State Department
Another significant crisis has emerged within the U.S. State Department. According to the Huffington Post, discontent is rampant at almost every level of the State Department. Allegedly, State Department employees vehemently oppose Biden's approach to Israel. They point fingers at one individual: Tom Sullivan.
Tom Sullivan, brother of Biden's Foreign Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan, is believed to wield substantial influence within the department. During meetings, he reportedly prioritizes "Israel's wants and needs" and places U.S. interests on the back burner. Given Jake Sullivan's influential position, few dare to criticize his brother. A State Department employee stated, "If the U.S. continues with this policy, it will lose this region entirely," citing concerns expressed by their Arab counterparts.
In the midst of this turmoil, Josh Paul, a veteran of the State Department, resigned from his post. Following his resignation, Paul stated, "I received dozens of messages of support from numerous colleagues within 24 hours. Many employees are contemplating resignation," underscoring the crisis at the department.
Ukraine's Urgent Needs
While Israel prepares for an extended and challenging ground operation, the amount of ammunition required is relatively low in the face of an unconventional adversary like Hamas. In contrast, Ukraine, engaged in a conflict with Russia, eagerly anticipates each military package. Mark Cancian, a consultant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned that "if new packages aren't approved, the front lines will experience shortages by Thanksgiving.”
The 45-day budget, narrowly passed by the U.S., is set to expire on November 15. The fate of the Ukrainian army hinges on whether support is included in the new budget.