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Blumenthal urges House to elect speaker so Congress can pass aid for Israel

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
Molly Ingram
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal

The U.S. Senate is back in session, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who said he has a cousin deployed in the Israeli Defense Forces, said their main focus must be on defense and humanitarian aid in connection with the Israel-Hamas war.

Blumenthal wants to send money and weapons to Israel for defense, and money and supplies to the region for the citizens impacted by the conflict in both Israel and Palestine.

“I will be going to Washington urging a package of military aid, very detailed and significant, but also humanitarian assistance so that more medical supplies can be provided both to Israel and to Palestinians,” Blumenthal said. “This war is not against the Palestinians, it is against Hamas.”

Carolyn Gitlin, who is with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, said Congress must also increase funding for the U.S. Security Grant Program.

“We know whenever there is a conflict in the Middle East, that we see an uptick of antisemitic activity here at home,” Gitlin said. “And we hope that Congress will expand their funding to $500 million, which will barely be able to cover fewer than half of the applications.”

Blumenthal said he hopes to double or triple that funding to counter hate crimes against Jewish and Muslim communities.

Congress is also monitoring the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Blumenthal said aid packages for Ukraine and Israel may have to be separated to get money to Israel.

“Combining the two would be my preference,” Blumenthal said. “But we need to do whatever we can as quickly as possible for Israel.”

The House of Representatives, which is back in session on Tuesday, still has no speaker after the ousting of Sen. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Blumenthal said the House must elect a speaker quickly, because without one, aid packages are unlikely.

“Chaos as a result of the Republican disunity is going to hamper these efforts to aid Israel unless it can devise a way to bring a measure to the floor without the speaker on some ad hoc basis,” Blumenthal said. “I hope they can devise a procedural mechanism to deal with this aid package on an expedited basis.”

The House is expected to meet tomorrow to try and elect a speaker. But nobody is poised to receive 217 votes, the amount needed to win the gavel.

“At some point, they may have to, in fact, deal with Democrats and reach some kind of compromise,” Blumenthal said.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.
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