Defense Spending

Democrats and Republicans Unite To Give Weapons Manufacturers $59 Billion

House Speaker Mike Johnson worked with President Biden to push through a $95 billion foreign military aid package—most of which goes to the American military-industrial complex.


The House of Representatives passed a $95 billion military spending package over the weekend, including $59 billion in weapons purchases in three separate bills. The aid package had been held up because some Republicans opposed more aid to Ukraine. Those concerns melted away after this month's Iranian-Israeli clashes.

The Senate already passed a similar $95 billion package two months ago, so the new House spending bills should pass the Senate and make it to President Joe Biden's desk quickly. The House package also includes a fourth "national security" bill with measures that the Senate has not voted on, including the forced sale of TikTok and new economic sanctions on Iran and Russia.

"Today, members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage," Biden declared in a statement after the legislation passed.

The White House advertised these bills as an aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and friendly nations in the Indo-Pacific region, such as Taiwan. But the bulk of the money will go directly into the American military-industrial complex. The package includes $29.5 billion to replenish stockpiles of American weapons given to Ukraine, Israel, and Indo-Pacific allies as well as another $29.5 billion for the development, production, and procurement of new weapons.

The wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have burned through stockpiles of American ammunition and missiles faster than they can be replaced, and American factories will have trouble keeping up even if more money is thrown at them.

Some non-American weapons manufacturers are also poised to rake in taxpayers' money from the aid package. The U.S. government will spend $5.2 billion on Israel's Iron Dome, Iron Beam, and David's Sling defense systems, produced by an Israeli company, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. And the Indo-Pacific bill loosens rules for spending Defense Production Act money on British and Australian companies. The United States, Britain, and Australia are working together on the AUKUS submarine project.

Supporters of the aid package have claimed that Ukraine and Israel are fighting so that American troops don't have to. But the bills themselves make it clear how much heavy lifting the U.S. military is already doing in these wars. They include $11.3 billion to support an American military buildup in Europe, and $2.4 billion for American military operations in the Middle East.

U.S. forces have bombed the Houthi movement that is threatening Israeli shipping in the Red Sea, shot down most of the Iranian missiles and drones en route to Israel, and flown surveillance drones over Gaza in order to provide intelligence to the Israeli army.

The United States is at risk of getting dragged further into these conflicts, as the Biden administration has been having trouble controlling its proxies. Israel bombed an Iranian consulate without consulting with Washington, leading to last week's Iranian-Israeli dustup. Meanwhile, Ukraine has refused U.S. calls to stop attacking inside Russian territory.

While pumping money into the wars, the package also provides aid to people that the wars have made homeless. The bills allot around $9 billion to refugee aid and other humanitarian relief, on the condition that none of the money is spent on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the Palestinian refugee organization that Israel has accused of supporting Hamas. (The agency, for its part, has accused Israel of torturing its employees into confessing alleged Hamas ties.)

And as usual, the spending package includes a hodgepodge of unrelated or only vaguely related items: $98 million for the Department of Energy to produce nuclear isotopes, $250 million for the World Bank's emergency response fund, $75 million for Middle Eastern border agencies fighting drug smuggling, and $390 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help nonprofit organizations defend their facilities from terrorism.

The legislative package was designed to prevent either Democratic or Republican dissidents from derailing it. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R–La.) broke the aid package apart into three separate bills, then put them back together again after they passed. That way, votes against aid to Ukraine did not count against aid to Israel, and vice versa.

It was a compromise between the Biden administration, which wanted to send Ukraine and Israel aid together, and Republicans, who wanted to vote on aid to Israel separately. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and CIA Director Bill Burns have personally lobbied Johnson over the past two months, according to CNN, as Ukrainian troops have lost ground to Russia.

Johnson appealed heavily to conservative Christian feelings about Israel when trying to sell Republicans on the package. "Of course, for those of us who are believers, it's a Biblical admonition to stand with Israel," he told Newsmax on Friday.

The Ukraine-focused bill passed 311–112, with unanimous Democratic support and some Republican support. Many Democrats cheered and waved Ukrainian flags during the vote. Johnson snapped at them: "We should only wave one flag on the House floor, and I think we know which flag that is."

The Israel-focused bill passed 366–58, with the vote mixed across party lines. Although Democrats have led criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and Republicans have traditionally taken a hawkish pro-Israel line, a few Republicans took a stand against spending taxpayers' money on the Israeli military.

"If Congress wants to send money to Israel, then we should defund the United Nations first," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) said on social media. "I have concerns about all deficit spending when sending money to any country, even if that country is a great ally or under attack."

The libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), who is now supporting an effort to oust Johnson, told Fox News that the military spending package was Johnson's "third betrayal" of his base, after helping pass an omnibus spending bill and reauthorize mass surveillance.

"He's the uniparty speaker now," Massie said.