February 13, 2024

Van Hollen Statement on Senate Passage of the National Security Supplemental

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement on his vote in support of the National Security Act:

“As our nation and our allies face a host of challenges across the globe, it’s critical that we deploy the necessary resources to support democracy and humanitarian aid abroad. For Ukraine, especially, this assistance could not come at a more crucial time. While Putin continues to wage his war of aggression against the Ukrainian people and on democracy itself, Ukraine is running dangerously low on ammunition and other vital supplies. We know all too well that this is not only a fight to save Ukraine – our adversaries and allies alike are watching closely, and the outcome will have implications on American security and security across the globe.

“This is not the only way this bill strengthens our security here at home. It also includes important provisions to invest more in the Nonprofit Security Grant Program – which helps protect various community institutions that are at risk of hate crimes, including synagogues, mosques, and certain other houses of worship – and it enacts clear measures to restrict the deadly flow of fentanyl into our nation. 

“In addition to these provisions, this legislation includes vital funding to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan and others in desperate need around the world. That being said, I am deeply disappointed that it includes a blanket ban on any funds going to UNRWA, which provides services to Palestinian refugees in many countries and is the main humanitarian aid distribution entity in Gaza. To rectify this, I put forward an amendment to narrow the prohibition of UNRWA funding to Gaza only and provide a process to restore funding following an investigation and any appropriate remediation. While we did not have an opportunity to vote on that amendment, the underlying bill will still provide assistance that is desperately needed at this time. I will continue to fight total bans on UNRWA assistance in future bills.

"Within this legislation, I also support the funding for defensive weapons systems, like the Iron Dome, to protect Israel from Hamas and other rocket attacks. The October 7th Hamas terrorist attack on Israel was horrific, and we must prevent any such future horrors. I fully support Israel’s right, indeed its duty, to defend itself. But while a war may be just, it must be fought justly. I cannot support a blank check for the Netanyahu government’s current campaign in Gaza. The disregard for innocent civilian life and the mounting humanitarian catastrophe are too great to turn a blind eye. I appreciate that President Biden issued National Security Memorandum 20, based on the amendment that I proposed with 18 of my colleagues, to better ensure that American taxpayer dollars are spent in line with our values. President Biden must use these tools in a manner that holds the Netanyahu government, which has mostly ignored his requests, more accountable for its actions. I will continue to push for a stronger U.S. response on this front.

“On balance, however, this bill provides the necessary funds to support our efforts abroad at a time when they are vitally needed. That is why I supported this legislation, and it’s why I urge the House of Representatives to do their job and bring it to a vote.”