Aid quickly promised to Israel by Congress after the Saturday’s attack by Hamas appears to have hit an obstacle—without a Speaker, apparently no one in the House has authority to open its wallet.
Hundreds of Israelis were killed and thousands injured in Israel and Gaza after the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group, Hamas, launched a barrage of rockets on the region.
Israel formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to take “mighty vengeance” on Hamas for the attack.
However, while there have been calls in Congress to send additional military aid to Israel, the legislative branch of the federal government is currently hamstrung in the aftermath of last week’s ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the Speaker’s seat.
Until another Speaker is elected, the lower chamber of Congress is under the management of a Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), whose powers are limited by House Rules, making it virtually impossible for him to introduce or enact a vote on the floor for any related policy matters—including discussions of funding or support for Israel.
It may be possible for a resolution to be introduced, but it is unclear whether anything more can be undertaken in the House until a new Speaker is elected.
Sunday on CNN, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden Administration was “looking at specific additional requests that the Israelis have made. I think you’re likely to hear more about that later today.”
He added that President Biden’s direction was to “make sure that we’re providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas.”
Biden on Saturday condemned what he called the “unconscionable” attack by Hamas, stating that the United States “stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist assaults. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.”
In response to accusations from some Republicans that “American taxpayer dollars helped fund” Hamas in its attack, Blinken on Sunday insisted that the unfreezing of Iranian funds as part of a prisoner swap for five wrongfully detained Americans last month did send that money into Iran-backed Hamas.
In fact, that unfrozen $6 billion was moved to a bank in Doha, where authorities in Qatar would oversee its use strictly for humanitarian purposes.
“So people are either misinformed or they’re misinforming. And either way, it’s wrong,” said Blinken.