War Party Unifies as Congress Funds Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan Militaries

Peace Advocate April 2024

Ceasefire Now lobbyists Linda Cohen, Elizabeth Baldwin, Pam Benjamin, and Omama Marzuq with Rep. Ayanna Pressley's staffer Aneeb Sheikh outside her office April 18. Photo: Omama Marzuq

by Cole Harrison

April 24 – Congress this week overwhelmingly passed a $95 billion supplemental foreign military appropriation bill which had been stalled for six months. Despite differing priorities within the overall war drive that unites them, the leadership of both parties finally came together to arm US clients in Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Antiwar minorities in both parties held up but could not defeat the cold war drive.

The package also included new sanctions on Iran and Russia, a move to ban Tiktok, and an effort to seize Russian assets deposited in US banks.

In the House, 37 progressive Democrats, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Jim McGovern, and 21 Republicans, voted against money to bolster Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, while 173 Democrats and 193 Republicans voted to expand the Israel military aid.   

The progressive votes against Israel aid confirm the split in the Democratic coalition which now can no longer be counted on to support Israel no matter what it does, responding to the large grassroots movement that has arisen to challenge Israel’s war on Palestine.

The Israel bill included $9.8 billion for humanitarian aid, much of it targeted for Somalia, Sudan, Nagorno-Karabakh and other crises, including Gaza, but it reaffirmed Congress’ defunding of UNRWA, the United Nations arm that is the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza and across the occupied Palestinian territories and in the diaspora.  Moderate Democrats like Rep. Stephen Lynch and Rep. 

Katherine Clark indicated that the humanitarian aid which was attached to the Israel bill made it harder for them to vote down the bill.

All Democrats voted to aid Ukraine, while the majority of Republicans voted against it.  The US has no diplomatic strategy to end the ruinous war in Ukraine, which has already claimed over 500,000 lives, and Congressional Democrats required none as they spent an additional $61 billion to continue the stalemated conflict.   MAPA and other antiwar groups have been unable to rally a significant movement against the Ukraine war due to liberal sympathy for Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia, even though many of its people prefer Russia to the pro-Western Kyiv government, as indicated by Crimea’s 2014 vote to join Russia and the rebellion of two Eastern provinces since 2015.

Democrats also united to send more military aid to Taiwan, but progressives opposed the Tiktok measure.

Rep. Jim McGovern, minority leader of the Rules committee, helped devise the rule which allowed him and other progressives to vote against Israel aid, and conservatives to vote against Ukraine aid, while ensuring the entire package would pass.   McGovern and Sen. Warren made clear that their overall goal is to maintain a pro-Western Ukraine, and to that end they were willing to put aside any qualms about supporting Israel’s genocide.  Congress could have easily passed Israel aid at any time in the past six months, a delay which was caused by the Democratic leadership’s insistence on holding Israel aid hostage until Republicans agreed to fund the Ukraine war. Rep. Pressley and other progressives voted against McGovern’s rule, refusing to sacrifice Palestine for Ukraine.

The Senate passed the package last night by 79-18. Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined 15 Republicans to vote no, while Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey maintained their support for it, as they did in an earlier vote in February.  

Most of the $95 billion will go to the highly profitable U.S. military-industrial complex, which will use it to build more weapons, some of which will be sent to overseas wars while others rebuild U.S. stockpiles.

MAPA joined the Ceasefire Now Grassroots Lobby Days in Washington last week, organized by Peace Action national and 40 other organizations. Our delegation of five visited all 11 Massachusetts Congressional offices on April 17 and 18. We met with Reps. Moulton and McGovern and in those meetings incorporated constituent activists who joined by Zoom.  We met with staff for our two Senators and the other seven Massachusetts House representatives.  

Our demands in each meeting were the same.   At each meeting we called for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza, no US military aid for Israel, refunding UNRWA, and no war with Iran, and turned in letters signed by constituents. The letter to Sen. Warren is linked here; we gave letters with identical wording to each of our 11 members. In our meetings with the more progressive members, we also restated our opposition to US sending arms to continue the Ukraine war without a diplomatic strategy.

Cole Harrison is the Executive Director of Massachusetts Peace Action.