Political Showdown Brewing Over How to Pay For Israeli Military Aid Package


A showdown is brewing between the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Biden administration over how to pay for a military aid package to Israel.

On Thursday night, the House passed a $14.3 billion package that would redirect funding from the IRS—which, recall, got an $80 billion boost as part of the poorly-named Inflation Reduction Act in 2022—to assist Israel. The White House issued a statement earlier in the week promising that President Joe Biden would veto such a bill, and Democrats in the Senate have called the idea “dead on arrival.”

Biden has called for a $105 billion package that would send money to Ukraine and Taiwan in addition to Israel. A bipartisan cohort of senators would prefer a package that doesn’t include the IRS cuts, according to The New York Times.

That, of course, amounts to a promise to borrow more money to fund those military efforts at a time when the United States is running annual budget deficits of nearly $2 trillion. However, even the House plan might add to the deficit. As The Washington Post points out, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says raiding the IRS to pay for aid to Israel will ultimately add to the deficit in the long run by reducing future revenue collections by about $26 billion. (An additional wrinkle: Those projections showing how effectively the IRS will use its infusion of new cash to pursue tax cheats are historically quite fraught.)

“We’re trying to get back to the principle of fiscal responsibility here,” new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R–La.) told reporters, Politico reports. “And that was the easiest and largest pile of money that’s sitting there for us to be able to pay for this immediate obligation.”

Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while a pair of Republicans—Reps. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R–Ga.), both outspoken critics of providing foreign military aid—voted against it.

Meanwhile, in Gaza: The Israeli military has surrounded Gaza City, according to an Israeli military spokesperson who told Al Jazeera on Thursday that “a ceasefire is not on the table at all.” In a statement on Thursday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “the height of the battle” against Hamas had arrived.

As the military incursion into Gaza escalates, Israel is facing stronger criticism from some foreign leaders even outside the Middle East. Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, said Friday that Israel has the right to defend itself and to go after Hamas, but added that “what I’m seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defense. It looks, resembles something more approaching revenge,” Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken headed to Israel on Thursday, where he plans to meet with Netanyahu as well as critics of Israel’s invasion, like Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who has accused Israeli forces of committing war crimes by targeting civilians in Gaza. Before boarding a plane on Thursday, Blinken told reporters he would push for “humanitarian pauses” in the bombing campaign to allow civilians remaining in Gaza City to escape.

Hamas’ leaders, meanwhile, are promising more attacks targeting Israeli civilians. And so the cycle of madness continues.

Pumped and dumped: Sam Bankman-Fried, aka “SBF,” the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX and once a leading proponent of so-called “effective altruism,” was found guilty Thursday on seven charges of fraud and conspiracy, capping a weeks-long trial that included the spectacle of SBF taking the stand in an attempt to defend himself. It didn’t work out.

“Bankman-Fried was better at calculating odds than an ordinary person, but he still miscalculated a lot—including, I think, on the odds that he might go to jail,” writes The Washington Post‘s Megan McArdle. “Most important, he miscalculated the risk that he might be miscalculating.”

Bankman-Fried is scheduled to be sentenced in March. His convictions carry the possibility of 110 years in jail. In a statement, his attorneys promised to appeal the jury’s decision.


Scenes from Culpeper: 

Few people outside of Culpeper County, Virginia, where I live, are likely paying attention to the wild campaign for sheriff that has unfolded here in recent months and will culminate next Tuesday.

The incumbent, Sheriff Scott Jenkins, is seeking re-election despite having been indicted—boy, doesn’t that sound familiar—on 16 federal bribery charges stemming from what prosecutors say was a cash-for-badges scheme. Under Virginia law, sheriffs are allowed to appoint a number of auxiliary deputies, who get access to the same tactical gear and firearms that the full-time deputies do.

Jenkins is accused of accepting $72,500 from at least eight people whom he later appointed as deputies, including at least two FBI informants. Whoops! A subsequent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Culpeper Star-Exponent newspaper revealed that Jenkins’ department conducts little oversight or record-keeping regarding the auxiliary deputies’ access to firearms and other taxpayer-funded equipment—like the Culpeper County-owned rifle that turned up in a car accident in Dallas, Texas, in July.

Jenkins pleaded not guilty to those charges and will stand trial in May. In the meantime, the local Republican Party declined to nominate the three-term incumbent for this year’s election—which might come as a surprise given how other branches of the GOP are handling similar situations on the national stage. Jenkins is opposed by Republican Joe Watson and another independent, Culpeper deputy police chief Tim Chilton, who has vowed to increase transparency both by requiring the sheriff’s office to use body cams (as the police department already does) and instituting bookkeeping reforms to prevent a similar scandal in the future.


QUICK HITS

  • The U.S. economy added 150,000 jobs in October, down from about 336,000 in September, according to data released Friday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate ticked upward to 3.9 percent, the highest mark since January 2022 but hardly a worrying sign.
  • The first of five former Memphis police officers indicted in connection to the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols pleaded guilty in federal court to two felony charges. As part of the plea deal, Desmond Mills Jr. will cooperate with prosecutors trying to pin state-level murder charges on some of the other officers involved in the incident.
  • An Ohio ballot question that could establish a state constitutional right to an abortion is confusing some voters.
  • A proposal being widely described as being a huge cut to Amtrak’s funding is actually anything but that, as Reason‘s Christian Britschgi explains.
  • “No Labels is perilous to our democracy,” says former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) because, at this point, apparently everything is.