Murkowski says aid for Israel must be part of a broader security package

Sen. Lisa Murkowski at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 31, 2023. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it’s imperative that Congress deliver aid to help Israel fight Hamas in the Gaza strip. But she insists that the money for Israel must be bundled with money to help Ukraine and Taiwan, and to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Murkowski said the U.S. has to defend its global allies against authoritarian regimes — China, which is threatening Taiwan; Russia, which is waging war on Ukraine; and Iran, the sponsor of Hamas.

“We don’t have the luxury of one crisis at a time,” she said in an interview outside the Senate chamber Tuesday.

If the United States fails to step up to the challenge in any one area, Murkowski said, it invites all authoritarian adversaries to take advantage. They shouldn’t think that America can only focus on the latest threat, she said.

“Or even worse: that we’re only going to be good in our words of support, but fail to carry through with actual meaningful support,” she said. “It is a moment for them to seize and we cannot — we cannot — allow them that moment to seize.”

She agreed with the main message Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee. He urged senators not to split up a $105 billion aid bill to address the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, China’s threats in the Indo-Pacific and better security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Blinken said America’s response sends a message to its adversaries.

“If we start to peel off pieces of this package, they will see that,” he said. “They will understand that we are playing whack-a-mole, while they cooperate increasingly and pose an ever greater threat to our security as well as allies and partners.”

Blinken’s testimony was repeatedly interrupted by protestors drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and demanding a ceasefire.

Murkowski said the civilians of Gaza deserve much more aid than is getting through so far, but she said it’s difficult to ensure that Hamas isn’t diverting the food, water and fuel to further its violence. Hamas, she said, is using innocent people of Gaza as “human shields” and figuring that their suffering will serve them as a recruitment tool.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan also supports a multi-pronged security package. That puts the Alaska senators in agreement with the White House and Senate leaders of both parties. But aid for Ukraine isn’t popular among right-wing Republicans, particularly in the House. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson proposes a stand-alone bill to help Israel, and he would offset the $14 billion cost by cutting money from the Internal Revenue Service. 

Murkowski said that may be politically advantageous to some members of Congress, but she said cutting from tax collection doesn’t really save money. 

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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