Illinois Republican Darin LaHood supports plan to aid Israel with repurposed IRS funding
Congressman Darin LaHood says he has full confidence in the new speaker of the U.S. House.
The Republican representative of the 16th Congressional District says this as lawmakers prepare to navigate aid requests for countries around the world, and another round of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown.
Originally, LaHood enthusiastically threw his supportbehind Freedom Caucus founding member and Ohio Republican Jim Jordan after Kevin McCarthy was removed as House speaker.
But a grueling three-week process featuring several potential candidates ended with Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson becoming the 56th speaker of the House. LaHood said the GOP found the "right man for the job."
“Mike is an excellent constitutional lawyer,” he said. “He is somebody who can help pick up the pieces in the House and help unite our conference. Mike is what I call a ‘happy warrior.’”
Though he's pleased with the final outcome, LaHood said McCarthy should never have been removed in the first place, pushing for getting rid of the "motion to vacate the chair"a handful of House Republicans triggered to start the removal process.
“I’m going to continue to advocate for that,” said LaHood, who was in Washington on Tuesday, visiting the construction site for the realignment of the Nofsinger Road intersection at Highway 24 — a project expected to be finished in Spring 2024.
“As we saw over three weeks, it was a lot of chaos, a lot of dysfunction," he said. "I don’t think that was good for our party," he said. "But we’ve settled on Mike Johnson now. I think he’s going to do a good job. And we have to give him the flexibility to get it done.”
Johnson has a lot to get done, starting with a controversial proposalfrom House Republicans to provide more than $14 billion in additional aid to Israel.
The request comes in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli settlements by Palestinian militant group Hamas, as Israel enters its fourth week of response through aerial shelling and the start of ground incursions into Gaza.
LaHood is a supporter of the additional aid.
“The package that’s coming to the floor on Wednesday, I look forward to supporting it,” he said. “I’m glad it’s offset by, you know, figuring out a way to pay for it. I think that’s good. We have to support Israel in their war against terrorism.”
Though calls for more Israel support are bipartisan, the controversy lies in the "offset" solution LaHood mentioned.
The bill makes up for the $14.3 billion cost by removing that amount from funding granted to the IRS for tax law enforcement in last year's Inflation Reduction Act.
LaHood said he's not worried about moving the funds.
“I think the billions and billions of dollars that was in the IRA, that funds the IRS, we can find 14 to help pay for this,” he said.
In total, the act awardedabout $80 billion over 10 yearsto the IRS.
Additionally, the House aid proposal doesn't include any funding for the ongoing war in Ukraine, despite bipartisan calls and requests from the White House for more. Johnson has publicly shared his desire to keep aid for Israel and Ukraine separate.
LaHood said Ukraine funding would need "more transparency" to earn his consideration.
“We need to know what the objective is in Ukraine and we can’t be giving them a blank check,” he said. “If those things are satisfied, I’m happy to consider it.”
There also are other funding concerns LaHood said he'd like to see considered by Congress before Ukraine, including increased security at the U.S. southern border and support for Taiwan.
In press briefings andreleases, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said the Biden administration believes approving emergency funding shouldn't require rolling back other obligations, like Ukraine.
The rules committee is expected to review the Israel aid proposal today.
When asked, LaHood did not explicitly state whether he would support humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in war-torn Gaza.
“We’ll have to see how that comes forth and how that’s paid for,” he said. “But I think there are many in Congress that support humanitarian funding.”
Similarly, LaHood did not explicitly state whether he would support the Israel aid if it was emergency spending, without the offset.
“I think it’s better to have offset funding,” he said. “For, particularly, when we’re $33 trillion in debt.”
That $33 trillion figure comes from the U.S. Department of the Treasuryand represents the national debt owed to other countries and the U.S. government itself. It's sure to be discussed further as Johnson faces another challenge: a looming government shutdown when a stop-gap budget bill runs out on Nov. 17.
LaHood told WCBU in June he thought former speaker McCarthy did a "fairly good job" at negotiating the stopgap bill, but he ultimately voted "no" on the compromise, citing his constituents' wishes. He also wanted additional measures to reduce spending on COVID relief, federal food assistance programs and the previously mentioned IRS funding.
This time around, LaHood wants a focus on reducing the debt.
“When we’re close to $33 trillion in debt, we have to get our spending under control,” he said. “This budget cycle, we’re supposed to, the federal government will bring in $5 trillion, we’re going to spend $7 trillion. So, we have to get that under control.”
These statistics also come from the Treasury, which says the government brought in $4.4 trillion in revenue, compared to $6.13 trillion in spending.
Whatever shape budget negotiations take, LaHood seems certain of one thing: it's a big task for Mike Johnson and it's going to take a while.
“Does he have big things ahead of him? Of course he does,” LaHood said. “Government shutdown on Nov. 17, working with the Senate to get the appropriations bills done. We’re going to start back on that [Nov. 1], we’re going to be working all the way through Nov. 17 to do that. So, I have confidence in Mike Johnson to help get us through.”
Meanwhile, LaHood said his own office has been working on securing grants for community funding projects.