WASHINGTON, DC – Today, after House Republicans unveiled their legislation to offset new funding for Israel by reducing funds for IRS tax code enforcement, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement:

“The U.S. has a responsibility to help the Israeli and Ukrainian people defend themselves.  But now, after weeks of dysfunction and delay caused by the chaos of choosing a new Speaker, House Republicans only want to provide U.S. aid to Israel by weakening the IRS’s ability to crack down on wealthy tax cheats.  Their proposal abandons Ukraine and also eliminates humanitarian assistance. 

“The House Republican proposal would increase the deficit and let wealthy tax evaders off the hook.

“Israel and Ukraine are in a fight for their very existence.  This is an emergency supplemental bill, and it needs to be passed quickly with bipartisan support and without poison pills. 

“The Senate is moving forward in a responsible, bipartisan manner.  But as House Republicans hold up aid to Israel and Ukraine, Russia and Iran are emboldened and the risk of these conflicts spreading only grows.  Now is the time to take a stand against terrorists and tyrants.  Decisive congressional action and U.S. leadership will help save lives and prevent a widening war.”

Today, Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, attended an Appropriations Committee hearing with U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the President’s national security supplemental funding request.  Text of Senator Reed’s Q&A with the witnesses follows and video can be viewed here.

RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Senate Appropriations Committee Holds Hearing on National Security Supplemental Request (Oct. 31, 2023)

Sen. Reed: The first point I would like to raise is with respect to our colleagues in the House, their proposal, the Republican leadership: Not only do they not fund Ukraine, which I think your testimonies indicate is of vital importance to the United States, they also want to offset the funding by taking money from the IRS.

Obviously, I don't think they read the Wall Street Journal. Because just a few days ago the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2021, Americans failed to pay $688 billion in taxes. So, if we don't invest in the IRS, we are giving up billions and billions of dollars. I think that point has to be recognized as we go forward and negotiate with the House.

Let me turn now to the issue at hand. You were talking about, Secretary Austin, sending resources to Ukraine. You are now the civilian Secretary of Defense but you were a distinguished Army officer and commander of CENTCOM.

If we don’t send them resources, does that increase the probability that someday we will have to send young Americans into the European theater?

Sec. Austin: Absolutely, Senator Reed. I think, as we have said earlier, if Putin is successful he will not stop at Ukraine. And if you’re a Baltic state, you are thinking: I’m next. There is no question in my mind that sooner or later there will be -- he will challenge NATO and we will find ourselves in a shooting range.

Sen. Reed: In one sense this comes down to a choice between lending them the tools to do the job or seeing young Americans facing combat.

Sec. Austin: I agree, Senator.

Sen. Reed: Secretary Austin, you pointed out with respect to the efforts in Gaza that humanitarian assistance is not just a good thing to do. It is a strategic necessity for the operations of Israeli forces. Is that correct?

Sec. Austin: That is absolutely correct.

Sen. Reed: It would seem to me that they could and should move into positions in areas they control: hospitals, shelter, and food – and make it available to the Palestinian people and do all they can to assist those people to reach those areas. Is that appropriate?

Sec. Austin: Absolutely, senator. Just so you know, I talk to my counterpart, the minister of defense Gallant nearly every day. Every day I talk to him, I remind him of the necessity of getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza. We just had such a conversation yesterday. This is really important for a number of reasons. But I'm delighted to see that the flow has increased. But to the Secretary's (Blinken) point, we need to increase it much, much more.

Sen. Reed: I think, not only do we need to increase it but also in terms of the strategy, the perception of the world with respect to Israel, is that they have to make it clear that their foe is Hamas, not the Palestinian people. And that they will go out of their way to try to protect the Palestinian people.

I think that’s essential. And it is not just a humanitarian impulse. It is very practical strategic operational technique.

Sec. Austin: I agree, senator.

Sen. Reed: We tried to make this point also, Mr. Secretary, Secretary Blinken, in our trips.

We suggested to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia that he can put resources into humanitarian relief. I would urge you and your colleagues to try to get all the nations in that area to provide the resources.

The Israelis control the ground. They can control the operations but the money for aid to Palestinian people should come from the international community.

Sec. Blinken: Senator, I very much agree with that. The United States is by far the leading donor to the Palestinians. We’ve provided $1.6 billion in assistance through various agencies to the Palestinians over the pendency of this administration. And we would like to see other partners, other allies step up and do the same thing. That is something we have been very clear about in our own conversations. I really applaud the members of this committee and others who have been to the region recently and have been pushing that as well.

Sen. Reed: A final point as my time is expiring. We have also a necessity to get many American citizens out of Gaza. Can you assure us that you are doing all you can to achieve that objective?

Sec. Blinken: We are, senator. We are working on this every single day. We have about 400 American citizens and their family members. So it is roughly 1000 people who are stuck in Gaza and want to get out. I am focused on this intensely. My entire department is as well, both in the region and here. We are working with various parties to try to facilitate their departure from Gaza. The impediment is simple. It’s Hamas.

We have not yet found a way to get them out through whatever place and by whatever means that Hamas is not blocking. But we are working that with intermediaries. We are working that for them.

There are also another roughly 5000 third country nationals from other countries seeking to get out. So, this is something that we are intensely focused on. We have been in close communication as best we can with Americans who are stuck in Gaza. We have had about 5,500 communications that we have initiated – phone calls, emails, What’s App – to be in touch with them, to try to guide them as best we can and to work through their ability to leave.

Sen. Reed: Thank you very much.