The Biden administration pushed Congress Tuesday to approve its $105 billion national security supplemental request that includes support for both Israel and Ukraine as the House of Representatives prepares to consider legislation that would only support Israel.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that separating funding for Ukraine from support for Israel could embolden adversaries like Russia and Iran.
"For our adversaries — be they states or non-states — this is all one fight and we have to respond in a way that recognizes that," Blinken told a Senate panel Tuesday. "If we start to peel off pieces of this package, they'll see that. They'll understand that we are playing whack-a-mole while they cooperate increasingly."
The request includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel, as well as funding for border security, humanitarian aid, and Indo-Pacific initiatives. The buckets for Ukraine and Israel include funding to give their militaries weapons from the Defense Department.
Several senators expressed concern that the nearly $10 billion for humanitarian aid in the request could end up in the hands of Hamas.
"We are working with the Israeli government, with Egypt, with the UN agencies as well as with other actors to try and make sure that assistance could get to people who need it in Gaza, but get in a way that doesn't go to the people who don't need it, and that's Hamas," said Blinken.
Blinken was asked if he can guarantee that no U.S. taxpayer dollars going to humanitarian aid for Gaza would be used by Hamas. Blinken did not answer directly but said there is a "robust inspection" of any aid money.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, testifying alongside Blinken, made the case for keeping up support for Ukraine in its counteroffensive against Russia.
"I can guarantee you that without our support, Putin will be successful," Austin told the senators, warning that Putin is hoping the U.S. loses interest in the long-run.
Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, pressed for Ukraine aid not to be forgotten, warning that Ukraine could now see "the bottom of the barrel" and that soon there would not be any bullets left in their guns.
The Pentagon has provided Ukraine with about $44 billion worth of equipment in drawdowns from Defense Department stocks since Russia invaded in February 2022. Those drawdowns have continued since the end of the fiscal year, but the Pentagon said Tuesday there is only about $5.4 billion in drawdown authority left until Congress passes more funding.
The push for Ukraine aid in Tuesday's Senate hearing comes as Republicans in Congress are divided over whether to pair funding for Ukraine with support for Israel.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, who's been in the job for a few days, has voted against Ukraine aid in the past, and House Republicans released a measure this week that would provide support for just Israel. But Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he believes the challenges Ukraine and Israel pose are connected and should be funded together, along with money for border security and the Indo-Pacific.
Blinken also provided more detail about Americans stranded in Gaza who remain unable to depart through the Rafah border crossing connecting Gaza to Egypt. He told lawmakers there are currently about 400 U.S. citizens — 1,000 people, including the citizens' family members — trying to leave Gaza. The State Department has reached out to American citizens either through phone calls, emails or What's App, Blinken said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said one Oregon family received three separate text notifications from the State Department to go to the Rafah border crossing. But each time the family went to the border crossing, the gate never opened.
Blinken blamed Hamas for being an "impediment" to allowing American citizens to leave. There were occasions the State Department thought it would be able to evacuate Americans, only to find that the procedures to enable them to leave were blocked by Hamas, according to Blinken.
Blinken was interrupted several times during his opening remarks by protesters shouting "ceasefire now" and "the U.S. is supporting a brutal massacre." Blinken acknowledged these protestors at the end of his statement.
"I also hear very much the passions expressed in this room and outside this room," he said. "All of us are committed to the protection of civilian life. All of us know the suffering that is taking place as we speak. All of us are determined to see it end."