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Biden's plan to send military aid to Israel has bipartisan support in the Senate

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

House Republicans have a new bill that would send about $14 billion to Israel for its war in Gaza without providing any extra funding for Ukraine's defense. The House plan contrasts with President Biden's broader proposal, which asks Congress for more than $100 billion for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. security needs. But how would any extra aid to Israel compare to the billions that the U.S. already spends on Israel's defense? Maya MacGuineas is president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and she joins me now to talk more about this. Good morning.

MAYA MACGUINEAS: Good morning.

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FADEL: So if you could start by just giving us a breakdown of what's included in this House Republican bill that's being proposed that specifies the military aid package to Israel without aid to Ukraine?

MACGUINEAS: Absolutely. So both the House and the White House are asking for a similar amount of money to go to Israel, the just about $14.3 billion. And it's broken down into a number of categories. The largest would be general military support. That includes just military operations and training and education and including replenishing some of the DOD - Department of Defense - stockpiles. Next largest category would be defense procurement. And so this would be transferring funds that would go directly to procurement for the Iron Dome defense system, which is their large missile defense system, and another program which is for short-range, ballistic missiles. Other areas of spending are military financing programs, procurement, diplomatic funding. There are a number of categories all totaling about $14 billion.

FADEL: Now this bill is saying that it wants to pay for military aid to Israel by cutting the same amount of funds allocated to the IRS under President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. How would this impact the federal deficit?

MACGUINEAS: So this is going to be a big stumbling block, right? It starts off that both the White House and the House are looking at the same amount of funding and the same allocation of funding, looks like there's going to be some agreement, and then here's where things break down, which is the House is saying they want to offset the cost of this spending given our huge deficit and debts. That's a sensible approach. However, what they're talking about is repealing funding to the IRS, which, in fact, is probably the only program in the federal government that pays for itself. So it would actually double down on the borrowing by rescinding money that goes to the IRS, which would translate into a larger loss of money in collected revenues. So that could be twice as expensive as the actual bill if that were paired with pulling back some of the IRS funding. Not the smartest offset if what you want to do is be fiscally responsible.

FADEL: So let's talk about this $14 billion. I mean, this is something that both the House Republicans and the Biden administration agree on. Could you put that in the context of preexisting U.S. aid to Israel?

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MACGUINEAS: Sure. So I mean, since World War II, Israel has been by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. It's been over $300 billion in that time period. And basically, on an annual basis where - well, yeah, last year, our largest amount of funding was to Ukraine. But generally, the largest amount of money we provide to is Israel. And much of that is anchored in something where we've had a memo of understanding with Israel for a number of decades now, since 1999, where we commit to a certain level of funding. Last year, we gave $3.3 billion, so obviously, $14.3 billion would be a significant bump up from the $3.3 billion that we have been giving them. So Israel can rely on the U.S. for significant funding. This would be a huge bump up from what is normal.

FADEL: That's Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Thank you for your time, Maya.

MACGUINEAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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