Strong backing for Israel heard after Iran attack, as well as partisan bickering

The White House defended the president’s handling of the newly escalated conflict in the Middle East on Sunday, amid pressure on both sides of the aisle for Congress to finally pass supplemental aid for Israel.

“The president has been a man of his word. We said we’re going to help Israel defend itself, and we’ve been doing that,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” In multiple TV appearances, Kirby also pushed for Congress to approve supplemental aid for Israel.

He was far from alone in that regard: Members of Congress from both parties pushed for additional international aid to be approved in the wake of Iranian drone strikes on Israel on Saturday — though Republicans and Democrats didn’t necessarily agree on the details of what the bill ought to look like. Speaking to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, House Speaker Mike Johnson said, “We’ve understood the urgency of this from the very beginning,” before criticizing Democrats for rejecting a previous Israel-only bill.

The Senate in February approved a bill that would have bolstered aid to Israel and also provided assistance to Ukraine and Taiwan, but the legislation has been held up in the House, amid pressure from some Republican hardliners to drop aid to Ukraine. Saturday’s attack on Israel — most of the hundreds of incoming drones and missiles were shot down — seemingly reset the discussion.

“The world is on fire,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries posted on X on Sunday. “We should stand with our Democratic allies and push back against the enemies of freedom. The House must pass the bipartisan national security bill. Tomorrow.”

“Enough with the stalling, @SpeakerJohnson,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) echoed on X. “The United States must stand with our allies. Bring the bipartisan supplemental aid bill up for a vote. Now.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) criticized the House for “dithering” on the bill and urged Johnson to bring it to the floor for a vote on Monday.

“That will send a strong signal by funding Israel, humanitarian support, Ukraine, Taiwan, making it clear that after months of dithering, the house will act,” Coons said during an interview on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Multiple Republican lawmakers said they expect Johnson to do just that — though the contours of the bill could change.

“I expect, I don’t know, but I expect the Speaker of the House will probably next week put an Israel bill, an Israel support bill on the floor of the House,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”

But Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said he expects the bill to pass with support for Ukraine intact.

“Donald Trump has been on the sidelines saying he doesn’t see that aid go to Ukraine unless it’s in the form of a loan. But just very quickly, do you expect it to get a vote this week, congressman?,” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Turner during an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“I do and I expect it to pass,” Turner said, adding: “Everyone has been very much on this side of understanding that we’re at a critical point. Russia is beginning to gain ground. Ukraine is beginning to lose the ability to defend itself and the United States must step up and provide Ukraine the weapons that they need. And I think we’re going to see overwhelming support for that in the House this week.”

Kirby also urged House lawmakers to bring the bill for a vote as soon as possible Sunday, saying Iran’s strike highlights the need for support for U.S. allies in the region.

“They should put it on the floor as soon as possible. I mean, we didn’t need any reminders in terms of what’s going on in Ukraine. But last night certainly underscores significantly the threat that Israel faces in a very, very tough neighborhood. So there’s a bipartisan bill by the Senate that all the House needs to do is take it up, put it on the floor. And you and I both know the votes are there,” Kirby said on “Meet the Press.”

“We’re just looking for leadership out of the speaker’s office: get it on the floor, get it voted on so that not only Israel can get additional resources and defend itself … but that Ukraine can as well,” Kirby added.

The national security spokesman also pushed back calls from Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for President Joe Biden to “match words with actions,” when it comes to U.S. support for Israel, saying the president has more than done so over the last six months.

“I just respectfully have to disagree with the leader there. Everything that the president has done since 7 October has proven his word as good,” he added.

McConnell, a staunch supporter of Israel, has previously criticized the Biden administration for “trying to micromanage” Israel’s war in Gaza. In the wake of Iran’s attack on Israel on Saturday, the Kentucky Republican called on the White House to take swift action against Tehran, and allow Israel to “finish the job,” against Hamas.

“President Biden has insisted that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is ‘ironclad’. It is time for his Administration to match words with actions. President Biden must lead an international effort to impose sufficient costs on Tehran to compel an end to its aggression and terror, both on Israeli soil and — as demonstrated with today’s IRGC assault on a commercial shipping vessel — around the region,” McConnell said Saturday in a statement.

“The President must also give Israel the time, space, and support it deserves to finish the job against Hamas. Tehran and its proxies are emboldened when they see divisions between the US and Israel,” the statement continued.

Biden was set to meet with fellow G7 leaders Sunday to discuss a diplomatic response to Iran, but Kirby said Sunday afternoon he “wouldn’t expect” specific sanctions to be announced from the meeting.

“The first big step for getting them together is to come out with a concerted statement of condemnation for what Iran did last night,” he said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki.”

Kierra Frazier and Matt Berg contributed to this report.

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