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US House Speaker Johnson to bring Israel bill to floor despite deficit risk

US House Speaker Johnson to bring Israel bill to floor despite deficit risk © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) delivers remarks on the outer steps of the House of Representatives after he was elected to be the new Speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2023. REUTERS/Nathan How

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said on Wednesday he plans to hold a vote on a standalone Israel aid bill despite a Congressional Budget Office report showing it could increase the federal deficit.

In the first major legislative action under Johnson, House Republicans unveiled their bill on Monday seeking to provide $14.3 billion for Israel by cutting Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding.

However, the measure is unlikely to pass.

Democrats and some Republicans oppose the plan, choosing instead to support Democratic President Joe Biden’s request for a $106-billion bill including funding for Ukraine as it fights Russian invaders, increased border security, humanitarian aid and efforts to push back against China in the Indo-Pacific, as well as money for Israel.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Wednesday that the IRS cuts and the Israel aid in the standalone bill would add nearly $30 billion to the U.S. budget deficit, currently estimated at $1.7 trillion.

Johnson rejected that assessment, telling reporters: “We don’t put much credence in what the CBO says.”

To become law, any legislation must pass the House, where Republicans have a slim majority, and the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed into law by Biden.

Democrats accused Johnson’s Republicans of wasting time by backing a partisan measure rather than a bill that would pass quickly and address the crisis that has followed the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said on Tuesday the bill would be dead on arrival in the upper chamber.

The Biden administration said Biden would veto such a bill if it reached his desk, calling it “bad for Israel, for the Middle East region, and for our own national security.”

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