April 23, 2024

Van Hollen Statement on National Security Supplemental Vote

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement on his vote in support of the national security supplemental legislation: 

“As we face a host of challenges around the globe, we must deploy the necessary resources to protect freedom, support democracy, and address humanitarian crises abroad. For Ukraine, in particular, this assistance could not come at a more critical time. While Putin continues to wage his war of aggression against the Ukrainian people and on democracy itself, Ukraine is running dangerously low on artillery and air defense munitions, as well as other vital supplies. This aid is critical not only to support the Ukrainian people in their fight against Putin, but also to defend freedom and democracy worldwide. Our allies and adversaries alike are watching closely to see if the United States and our partners will keep our promises to the people of Ukraine in their hour of need, or whether we will retreat. 

“This legislation also supports many other key priorities both here at home and abroad, from providing support to Taiwan and our partners in the Indo-Pacific to better protecting Americans from the flow of deadly fentanyl into our nation by bolstering screenings and inspections at border points of entry. Additionally, the legislation invests more in the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps protect various community institutions that are at risk of hate crimes, including synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship. The alarming rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab incidents since the October 7th attacks underscores the vital need for more resources to help safeguard our communities from bigotry and hate. 

“In addition to these provisions, this legislation includes over $9 billion in humanitarian aid that will reach people in desperate need around the world – from Gaza to Sudan and elsewhere. I am glad to support this funding that will provide necessities like food, water, shelter, and medical care to the world’s most vulnerable people. That being said, I am deeply disappointed that this bill prohibits any of the available funds from going to UNRWA, which provides vital services to Palestinian refugees in many countries and is the main humanitarian aid distribution entity in Gaza. I put forward an amendment to provide a process to restore that funding following the ongoing investigation and appropriate remedial actions. While we did not have an opportunity to vote on that amendment, I will continue to seek to reverse the current ban and press the Biden Administration to encourage other countries to continue to support UNRWA and use our support for international organizations in a way that advances that goal. The underlying bill does include substantial assistance that is desperately needed at this time in Gaza and around the world and is better than our alternative at this point — which is to provide nothing.

“Lastly, within this legislation, I support the funding for defensive weapons systems, like the Iron Dome, to protect Israel from Hamas, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, and other threats in the region. The October 7th Hamas terrorist attack on Israel was horrific — and we must prevent any such future horrors and secure the release of all remaining hostages. I continue to fully support Israel’s right, indeed its duty, to defend itself. But while this war is just, it must be fought justly. I do not support a blank check for offensive weapons for the Netanyahu government’s current campaign in Gaza. I will continue to push for a ceasefire and a return of all the hostages but, in the meantime, we cannot turn a blind eye to what President Biden has described as ‘indiscriminate’ bombing or to the failure of the Netanyahu government to meet its obligations to facilitate, and not arbitrarily restrict, the delivery of assistance to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Given these concerns, had this been an up or down vote strictly on military assistance for Israel, I would have insisted on amendments to ensure that no funds for offensive weapons would flow to the Netanyahu government until it cooperates fully in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to starving people in Gaza, agrees not to launch an invasion into Rafah – where over 1.3 million Palestinians were told to seek safety – and allows an independent investigation into the deaths of all humanitarian aid workers killed in Gaza. For now, I will continue to press the Administration to pause any further transfers of offensive military aid until the Netanyahu government meets President Biden’s demands and will use the congressional review process to reinforce that position. And I will be closely monitoring the report the Administration produces by May 8th – as required by National Security Memorandum 20 – as to whether or not recipients of U.S. security assistance are using such aid in accordance with international law and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance in conflict areas where they are using U.S.-supplied weapons.

“On balance, this legislation provides the necessary resources to support the people of Ukraine and advance important American priorities at home and around the world. That is why, despite certain reservations, I voted in favor of this legislation.”