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US can 'certainly' afford to provide military aid to Israel, Ukraine: Yellen

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday the U.S. can “certainly” afford to provide military aid to Israel in its war against Hamas and Ukraine in its war against Russia.

“America can certainly afford to stand with Israel and to support Israel’s military needs, and we also can and must support Ukraine in its struggle against Russia,” Yellen said in an interview with Britain’s Sky News.

Yellen reaffirmed the U.S.’s support of Israel, while urging caution over civilian deaths as Jerusalem prepares for a major counteroffensive into the Gaza Strip.

“America has also made clear to Israel, we’re working very closely with the Israelis, that they have a right to defend themselves,” Yellen told Sky News. “But it’s important to try to spare innocent civilian lives to the maximum extent possible.”

Yellen said both Israel and Ukraine were a “priority” and the U.S. “need[s] to come up funds, both for Israel and for Ukraine.”

President Biden in a recent “60 Minutes” interview dismissed the idea that the U.S. could not simultaneously support both Israel in its war against Hamas and Ukraine in its war against Russia. Arguing both conflicts impact the safety of the American people, Biden said the U.S. can “take care of both of these and still maintain our overall national defense.”

While much of Washington agrees on the need to continue arming Ukraine, House Republicans have become increasingly skeptical of support for Kyiv, with chaos over the Speaker further complicating matters. Some Republicans have pushed back on the White House’s request for billions in additional Ukraine aid, arguing the money should be spent on domestic issues.

Israel’s war with Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, has already claimed more than 4,000 lives on both sides after Hamas’s bloody surprise assault on Israel last week.

More than 1,400 Israelis were killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza. Israel has pounded Gaza with air strikes in response. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded.

Yellen called upon the U.S. House to choose a new Speaker after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted nearly two weeks ago.

“It’s really up to the House to find, seat a Speaker and to put us in a position where legislation can be passed,” Yellen said.

In the chaotic days since McCarthy’s historic ousting, no Republican has been able to pull together the 217 votes needed to take the top spot. 

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) won the Republican nomination vote last Wednesday against Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), but he dropped out later Thursday when it became apparent he would struggle to get the necessary votes.

Jordan put his name back in the ring and went on to clinch the nomination in a second vote last Friday, beating challenger Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.). However, it is still unclear if Jordan can shore up the necessary votes. Jordan has emphasized the need for the House GOP conference to unite to allow Congress to support Israel.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that Democrats want to reopen the House to tackle domestic issues as well as “make sure that we can stand with our close friend, Israel, during her time of need in terms of ensuring Israel’s ability to decisively defeat Hamas, a brutal terrorist organization.”

Meanwhile, in a press conference Sunday from Tel Aviv, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate will “not wait for the House” to assemble the “most generous package” for Israel.

“We believe if the Senate acts in a strong, bipartisan way, it may indeed improve the chances that the House, even with its current dysfunction, will act,” Schumer said, alongside a bipartisan delegation of Senate lawmakers who are visiting Israel.

Source: The Hill

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