Congressional Republican leaders are reaching out to the pro-Israel lobby after anti-abortion politics led GOP lawmakers to oppose a bill that included $2.4 billion for the Jewish state.
The money for Israel was approved last Thursday night by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in a 241-178 vote. It was part of a $34.2 billion foreign operations bill.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied hard for the $2.4 billion in defense assistance for Israel, as well as another $40 million in refugee assistance that was included in the measure.
Most Republicans in the House voted against the overall bill because it restored some funding for contraception aid to overseas groups that provide abortions a Republican red line for more than two decades. President Bush has sworn to veto the bill if it reaches his desk with funding for abortion providers.
The House vote and the potential presidential veto of a bill containing Israel aid come after years of efforts by Republicans to present themselves as Jerusalem’s most reliable allies in Washington.
In a memo urging a “no” vote on the foreign aid bill, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) went of his way to assure fellow Republican lawmakers that the GOP leadership was taking steps to reach out to AIPAC.
“Members are advised that the Leadership has drafted a letter to AIPAC affirming Republican support for Israel funding, not withstanding final passage of this bill,” Boehner wrote in a P.S. attached to the memo, which was sent to House Republicans. “This letter will be available for Members to sign at the Leadership Desk on the floor tonight. A copy of that letter is attached.”
In addition to Boehner’s comments, Republicans attached mostly symbolic pro-Israel amendments to the bill. One by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana that reaffirmed an existing policy banning assistance to groups that reject Israel’s existence passed! 390-30.
Another amendment that passed, moved by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), cuts funding to the U.N. Human Rights Council and to Saudi Arabia. The United States does not participate in the council, and aid to Saudi Arabia has never surpassed $100,000.