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Sanders urges Biden to reject $10.1B in Israel military aid, Welch concerned about Ukraine support

A man with white hair and glasses, wearing a suit, points into the air while speaking in front of a white building
Susan Walsh
Associated Press File
In this file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks with reporters following a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. This week, Sanders is urging the president to withdraw support for military aid for Israel that goes beyond that country's defensive systems.

Vermont's two U.S. senators are expressing separate concerns about a supplemental aid package in Congress that includes funding for Israel and Ukraine.

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter this week urging President Joe Biden to withdraw support for $10.1 billion in military aid to Israel, citing that country's "widespread, indiscriminate bombardment" of the Gaza Strip.

On Oct. 7, Hamas attacked Israel by killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage. In response, Israel has killed more than 18,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry. NPR reports that the health ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths in its counts.

While a week-long truce in November resulted in the return of some of Hamas' hostages and Palestinians held in Israel's jails, fighting began again on Dec. 1.

"Israel has the right to go to war against Hamas. It does not have the right to go to war against innocent men, women, and children in Gaza," Sanders wrote in the letter. He added that the resulting mass displacement and destruction of Gaza constitutes "not just a humanitarian cataclysm, but a mass atrocity."

"And it is being done with bombs and equipment produced and provided by the United States and heavily subsidized by American taxpayers," Sanders said. "Tragically, we are complicit in this carnage."

He added that while it was appropriate to support Israel's defensive systems against incoming missile and rockets attacks, providing any military aid beyond that would be "irresponsible."

In the same letter to the president, Sanders also asked Biden to support a United Nations resolution "that would have demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and full humanitarian access."

The U.S. vetoed the U.N.'s cease-fire resolution on Dec. 8. According to reporting from NPR, the U.S. did so because the resolution authors failed to condemn Hamas' Oct. 7 attack and to say that Israel has the "right to defend itself against terrorism."

Welch concerned about Ukraine aid amid immigration debate

Meanwhile Sen. Peter Welch says he's concerned Congress will not send additional military aid to Ukraine until early next year.

The supplemental aid package in Congress includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine. And it's in limbo, because Senate Republicans also want the package to include new security measures for the Mexican border.

Welch says it's critical for lawmakers to compromise on a plan to strengthen security along the Mexican border.

"I've been of the view that Democrats have been slow to acknowledge that there are real issues at the border, and in part that's because we've absolutely condemned some of the Trump rhetoric and some of the Trump policies, but there's a real problem that we have to address," he said.

Welch says any compromise should include ways to limit migration across the border while providing a path to citizenship for people who are allowed to cross into the U.S.

In the meantime, Welch was among a group of senators who met this week with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington.

"[Zelensky] understands that there's a lot of support in the Senate for Ukraine aid, and they need it now, they literally are running out of munitions," Welch said.

The immediate future of the supplemental aid package is in doubt because House Republican leaders say they might need additional time to fully consider any package passed by the Senate.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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