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US House panel recommends $17.6 billion in military aid for Israel

Smoke rises above North Gaza

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation providing $17.6 billion in new military assistance to Israel as it wages war against Hamas was unveiled on Saturday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The funding bill, offered by a House Appropriations panel, could come to a vote in the full House sometime next week, Speaker Mike Johnson said in a letter to members.

The Republican-controlled House had previously approved $14.3 billion in new military aid to Israel, but with the requirement that it be paid for by clawing back a chunk of money already targeted for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The Democratic-controlled Senate balked at that provision and is expected to unveil a legislative package that would aid Israel as well as provide more military assistance for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

That same Senate bill is also expected to contain proposals for strengthening security along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has taken steps to start debate on that multipronged bill next week, with a first procedural vote no later than Wednesday.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the $17.6 billion would include funds to help replenish Israel's missile defense systems, procure additional advanced weapons systems, and produce artillery and other munitions.

Some of the funding would also be used to replenish U.S. arms provided to Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

"The need to support our closest ally and our own forces in the region has never been more pressing," Johnson said in his letter to colleagues.

It was unclear whether far-right House members might balk at the funding for Israel without an equal amount of savings elsewhere in the budget.

House Republicans have insisted that any new aid to Ukraine be accompanied by strong new U.S. border controls at a time when record numbers of immigrants are trying to enter the United States. While the Senate plans to do just that, Johnson already has said the border security package to be unveiled in the Senate is insufficient.

Before new military aid to Israel or Ukraine can be delivered, the House and Senate must pass the same bill before sending it to President Joe Biden, a Democrat, for signing into law.

The Senate also wants to include aid to Taiwan as part of its legislation.

(Reporting by Jason Lange, Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)