PREPARED REMARKS: Sanders Expresses Concerns About Foreign Aid Supplemental Bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday evening spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate about some of his concerns regarding the $106 billion emergency foreign aid supplemental bill that may soon be considered in the Senate.

Sanders’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below and can be watched here:

M. President,

Let me say a few words to express my concerns about the $106 billion emergency foreign aid supplemental bill that we may soon be considering. There are pieces of this bill I strongly support, but in its present form I do not think it serves the interests of the American people. Let me explain why.

First, while I strongly support Ukraine’s valiant efforts to defend itself against Putin’s invasion, and Israel’s need to defend itself against incoming rocket and missile attacks, I am deeply concerned that this legislation has no investments to address the needs of working families in the United States – 60 percent of whom are living paycheck to paycheck. Let’s be clear: it is not only foreign countries that face emergencies. We face enormous emergencies in this country right now in terms of child care, primary health care, housing, and much more. The American people do not want us to continue to ignore these issues.

Second, at a time when Congress will likely soon pass a $900 billion defense bill, this supplemental bill includes tens of billions that should be covered as part of the base defense budget and handled through normal appropriations, not allocated as “emergency” spending. We can save tens of billions of dollars in this bill and dedicate that money to some of the enormous domestic crises we face.

Third, at a time when some 16,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last two months, two thirds of whom are women and children, and tens of thousands more injured.

At a time when 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes and are struggling every day to get the food, water, medical supplies, and fuel they need to survive.

At a time when over 250 people have been killed in the West Bank since October 7th, and more than a thousand Palestinians have been driven off their land there.

No, I do not think we should be appropriating $10.1 billion for the right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government to continue its current military approach. What the Netanyahu government is doing is immoral, it is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions.

We are all clear that Hamas, a corrupt terrorist organization, began this war with their barbaric attack against Israel on October 7. Given that reality, Israel has a right to defend itself. It does not, however, have the right to wage all-out war against innocent men, women, and children who had nothing to do with the Hamas attack.

Therefore, I believe it is appropriate to support defensive systems that will protect Israeli civilians against incoming missile and rockets attacks, but I believe that it would be absolutely irresponsible to provide an additional $10.1 billion in unconditional military aid that will allow the Netanyahu government to continue its current offensive military approach.

That approach has included indiscriminate bombing that has killed nearly 16,000 people, most of whom are civilians.

Let me repeat that figure and put it into context: 16,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7th, two-thirds of whom are women and children. Thousands more are missing under the rubble. 16,000 in a little less than two months.

In Ukraine, meanwhile, which has seen the most intense fighting in Europe since the Second World War, according to the UN, at least 10,000 civilians have been killed since Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion in February 2022. 10,000 in a little less than two years. That’s right, according to the UN, more civilians have been killed in two months in Gaza than in almost two years in Ukraine.

Israel’s indiscriminate approach is deeply offensive to most Americans, is in violation of U.S. and international law, and undermines the prospects for lasting peace and security.

Israel must dramatically change its approach to minimize civilian harm and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace. That must include: a guarantee that displaced Palestinians will have the absolute right to return to their homes as Gaza rebuilds; no long-term occupation or blockade of Gaza; an end to the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank and a freeze on new settlements there; and a commitment to broad peace talks to advance a new two-state solution in the wake of this war.

M. President, the Biden administration has, appropriately, been trying to get the Israelis to be more targeted in their approach, but there is little evidence that it has succeeded. Just today airstrikes hit two UN schools housing displaced people. More than 900 people have been killed since Friday. Israeli evacuation orders are delivered with little notice to people with no electricity and limited communications service, most of whom have already been displaced and lack basic necessities. And even then, Israel sometimes bombs areas people have been told are safe. How, then, does giving Netanyahu another $10 billion with no strings attached help advance the critical policy goal of the United States to protect civilians and allow for a lasting peace? The U.S. must use its substantial leverage to accomplish this, and any additional military aid to Israel must have conditions attached to secure the necessary changes in policy. We cannot be complicit in the current Israeli approach.