But whatever Israel needs, those requests will run headlong into the dysfunction and uncertainty enveloping Capitol Hill, as the House grapples with selecting a new leader and both chambers race to avoid a government shutdown just weeks away.
Those priorities will also need to compete with rush orders for Ukraine, which is already straining the capacity of companies in the U.S. and Europe to send arms to Kyiv and resupply inventories back home.
“One thing that is really important in terms of the munitions in particular, and our ability to support both potentially the Israelis and the Ukrainians simultaneously, is additional funding from Congress to be able to increase our capacity,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington Monday.
Increasing the output from defense companies has been a priority for the Pentagon — and the Army in particular — as the U.S. raids its own warehouses to send millions of artillery rounds along with ground vehicles and guided bombs to Ukraine.
“In terms of our capacity to expand production and then to also pay for the munitions themselves, we need additional support from Congress. So I hope we’ll see that soon,” Wormuth said.
Yet she acknowledged the uncertainty on Capitol Hill, noting that “we’re staring down the barrel of another potential government shutdown in just a few weeks.”
The “lack of predictability around our budget is a huge problem, particularly in light of the incredibly challenging security environment where we’re doing everything we’re doing in Ukraine, we’re working to keep up with the pacing challenge of China, and now we see what’s happening in Israel,” she said. “Having predictable funding would help a lot.”
With Congress not in session this week, and without a speaker of the House, the budget remains in flux.
The House is unable to pass legislation until it elects a replacement for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was ousted last week. The crisis — and the inability of the House to act until it picks a new speaker — has even fueled some calls to reinstate McCarthy. He signaled Monday he’s open to the idea.
Ukraine aid, meanwhile, remains politically toxic among House Republicans as more GOP lawmakers turn against new funding.
On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday endorsed speeding resources and intelligence support to Israel and several other strategic American allies. And he has generally aligned with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on ensuring that they have the resources and money needed to defend themselves.
“As we have seen in Ukraine, failure to act decisively can prolong the conflict and compound the costs of war,” McConnell wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “There is still time to act. Congress has the opportunity this fall to provide emergency appropriations to the Defense Department so that it can assist partners like Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as invest in our own military capabilities.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. has rushed munitions, rockets, drones, artillery, air defense and tanks to the fight, and is training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s. More equipment has been ordered, but the U.S. also needs to restock its shelves.
In his column, McConnell underscored the importance of funding the expansion and modernization of weapons inventories alongside investing in the defense industrial base.
“While war is expensive,” he wrote, “failure costs more.”
Congress has left President Joe Biden’s latest $24 billion request for Ukraine largely untouched since the administration sent it to Congress in August. Attempts to attach several billion dollars as part of a government funding patch in late September came up short.
The massive proposal included $9.5 billion for the Pentagon to arm Ukraine and build back stocks of weapons and equipment that were sent to Ukraine, such as artillery shells and missiles, with $4.5 billion of that earmarked to replenish U.S. inventories.
Bipartisan momentum to quickly provide funding and aid for Israel could be an opportunity to unjam at least part of Biden’s request for Ukraine by pairing funding for the two crises. But it could also prove politically perilous because House Republicans increasingly oppose more money for Kyiv.
Even if Congress approves more money for Israel, it’s still an open question whether the industrial base — already straining from the effort to arm Ukraine — can deliver for Tel Aviv over the long term.
The countries need different types of weapons, for the most part. Israel is expected to rely heavily on precision air-to-ground munitions fired from F-16 and F-35 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, none of which is in the Ukrainian arsenal. The issue of 155mm artillery shells, which both countries desperately need, will likely loom large, however.
Andrew Zhang contributed to this report.