- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Party leaders are urging House Democrats to show uncharacteristic unity on the handling of the Israel-Hamas war this week when lawmakers vote on a GOP bill demanding President Biden send weapons to the Jewish State.

Democratic leaders have been encouraging their lawmakers to vote against the measure despite deep divides on the issue. Progressives want a full stop to the conflict; supporters of Israel want to see Hamas eradicated.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar said the substance of the bill is important, although Democrats have generally accused Republicans of using the bill as a tool to undermine the president’s ability to make foreign policy decisions. 

“We understand that there’s different viewpoints within our own caucus on this, but overwhelmingly, House Democrats will reject this overly political bill that did not come through committee,” said Mr. Aguilar, California Democrat. 

The legislation from Rep. Ken Calvert, California Republican, seeks to force the administration to continue sending weapons to Israel and to send any arms that have been withheld. The president, who is under pressure from progressives to support a cease-fire, said he would suspend the shipment of certain weapons if the Israeli military attacked Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has staunchly opposed the administration’s handling of the conflict, agreed that the bill was being used as a political weapon.

“Regardless as to whether one agrees with Biden’s decision on it or not, I think in this set of circumstances, it’s within his authority, and for people to try to kind of pick and choose when the authority belongs to the president and when it doesn’t, I think what we’re seeing here is that it’s being weaponized because of a disagreement as opposed to an actual debate,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat. 

Democrats may have some political cover on the vote after Mr. Biden vowed to veto the bill, a move that House Speaker Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said is another example of the president turning his back on Israel

“The president took no decisive action when Iran was planning to attack Israel, and now that Israel is fighting for its very survival, he is withholding weapons and threatening to veto legislation that would give the Israelis what they need to adequately defend themselves,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Wednesday he would not bring up the measure for a vote. 

“The president has already said he’d veto it, so it’s not going anywhere,” Mr. Schumer said.

Some Democrats share Mr. Johnson’s view that Israel needs weapons approved by Congress to both defend itself and finish the fight against Hamas — 26 Democrats sent a letter to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan last week criticizing the aid pause — but disagree with the GOP’s attempt to quash threats from Mr. Biden to interrupt arms shipments to Israel

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who criticized Mr. Biden’s threats to pause arms transfers, said he has not decided how he will vote on the bill. But he said the legislation goes “beyond the current issue in Gaza.” 

“With that being said, this thing is not going to become law,” said Mr. Moskowitz, Florida Democrat. “It’s not going anywhere in the Senate.” 

• Alex Miller can be reached at amiller@washingtontimes.com.

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