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Sen. Collins says she'll visit Israel as Congress considers additional aid

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with reporters as she arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023 in Washington.
Mark Schiefelbein
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with reporters as she arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023 in Washington.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins said Thursday that she plans to visit Israel with other lawmakers in the coming days as the White House and Congress discuss sending additional military aid to the country.

Neither Collins nor her office provided details about the visit. But the Maine Republican told The Washington Post during a livestreamed eventon health care that the trip is intended as a show of support as the Israeli military targets Hamas in response to deadly terrorist attacks earlier this month.

"Assisting Israel as it confronts the worst terrorist attacks and the greatest number of deaths since the Holocaust is absolutely critical and a group of us in the coming days will be visiting Israel to show our solidarity with the Israeli people," Collins said.

President Biden is calling for tens billions of dollars in additional assistance for Israel as well as for Ukraine, although the Republican infighting over selecting a new House Speaker is preventing any work from happening in that chamber. Additionally, Congress has less than a month to negotiate a new spending agreement to avoid a government shutdown.

There is bipartisan support in Congress for additional aid to Israel even as concerns grow in Washington and around the country about the deadly toll that Israeli airstrikes are having on innocent Palestinian civilians. During the same event with The Washington Post, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, credited Biden for his strong expressed support for Israel but also for expressing concerns about the worsening humanitarian crisis among Palestinians.

"There is very real concern at this point that this conflict could spread across the Middle East in ways that we have not seen in a long time," Shaheen said. "There is also real concern about the potential for unrest in cities across the world."

Republican support for additional military assistance to Ukraine appears to be weakening. But Collins, who is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee that is responsible for approving any federal spending, said providing additional aid to Ukraine is in the national interest because the Ukrainians are "taking on an adversary of the United States."

Asked whether there should be a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza, Shaheen said would have to come from negotiations between the warring parties. Collins said she generally agreed with her New Hampshire colleague but added, "I think Israel has to crush Hamas."