House votes for Israel aid linked to controversial IRS and tax cut measures

In a contentious decision, the House approves $14 billion in aid to Israel, offset by cuts to the IRS budget, despite predictions of increased deficit and a veto from President Biden.

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The political fault lines in Washington became starkly visible as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a contentious bill, defying party expectations and evoking a furore from various quarters. With a 226-196 vote that saw a dozen Democrats break ranks, the legislation pledges approximately $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel, simultaneously slashing an equivalent sum from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) budget—a move decried by opponents as both fiscally irresponsible and ethically questionable.

A Fiscal Paradox: Aid Amidst Cuts

In a strategic decoupling, New House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) separated the Israel aid from President Biden’s expansive $106 billion foreign aid request, which also includes significant support for Ukraine and Asia-Pacific regions. The Republican rationale for this separation stems from a staunch commitment to preventing federal deficit growth—a commitment that paradoxically may backfire, as Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis suggests the IRS budget cut could lead to $26.8 billion in unrecouped taxes, deepening the deficit.

The bill’s passage reflects a calculated risk by Republicans to fulfill international commitments while adhering to a fiscal philosophy that demands cuts at home. However, this philosophy faces scrutiny as the cuts in IRS funding—originally bolstered by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act in 2022—are projected to impair the agency’s ability to pursue audits of high-income earners and tax evaders, potentially allowing $90 billion in revenue to slip through the government’s fingers, according to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel.

Democrats Divided, Republicans Resolute

The legislation’s Democratic supporters, among them Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.) and Jared Golden (Maine), have placed themselves in the political crosshairs. This division within the Democratic ranks has amplified the bill’s controversy, contrasting sharply with the unified Republican front—excluding notable dissenters Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.).

House Speaker Johnson, advocating for the bill, invoked the ethos of household budgeting as a model for federal fiscal management, stating, “And I think people at home, I think the American people understand that. At home, you have to balance your budget. At home, you have to make tough decisions, and Washington should run the same way.”

A Defiant Senate and a Presidential Veto

Despite clearing the House, the bill is poised to hit insurmountable resistance in the Senate, with Democratic leaders voicing their opposition to what they regard as a “deeply flawed proposal.” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has dismissed the bill as a “hard-right proposal” tied to partisan interests. Together with Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a different aid package is in the works that could potentially align more closely with the President’s broader aid vision.

The White House stands firmly against the House bill, emphasizing the interconnected nature of the proposed aid to global U.S. interests, including Ukraine’s defense and Pacific stability. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby underlined this stance.

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