- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2024

House Republicans tried to drive a wedge between Democrats and President Biden on Thursday in passing legislation that would compel the White House to arm Israel in its war against Hamas terrorists.

Democrats were forced to either side with Mr. Biden or side with ally Israel and Jewish voters who have long been loyal Democrats. They chose Mr. Biden.

The House passed the Israel Security Assistance Support Act 224 to 187, with just 16 Democrats joining the Republican majority in support of the bill.

The bill authored by Rep. Ken Calvert, California Republican, responded to Mr. Biden’s threats to further pause arms shipments to the Jewish state over concerns of possible mass civilian casualties when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent forces into Rafah, home to over 1 million Palestinians.

Mr. Calvert’s bill would force the administration to send weapons to Israel and to send any arms that have been withheld. Mr. Biden has paused the shipment of thousands of bombs.

The bill also put Democrats on record on their stance on Israel, an issue that has split the party between its historic support for Israel and the left-wing’s increasingly anti-Israel fervor.

Democrats attempted to dismiss the legislation as mere political messaging, saying it wouldn’t help Israel or send any new weapons or aid but could hinder Mr. Biden’s ability to make foreign policy decisions.

“It is not a serious effort at legislating, which is why some of the most pro-Israel members of the House Democratic Caucus will be voting no,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said that the specific weapons that Mr. Biden was trying to block — heavy bombs and precision munitions — were necessary to root out Hamas because the terrorist organization has an extensive tunnel network in Rafah.

He argued that Mr. Biden and his Democrats were making a sudden about-face just months after proudly standing with Israel.

“War is hell, war is horrific, war is messy, nobody wants war,” Mr. McCaul said on the House floor before the vote. “But Israel did not start this war, Hamas did. And sadly, civilian casualties are part of urban warfare.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Mr. Biden has long supported Israel and the GOP misconstrued his stance as supporting Hamas over the Jewish state.

“Our values are to try to save innocent lives. Not save Hamas, but to try to save innocent men, women and children while we pursue Hamas,” Mr. Meeks said.

The bill is all but dead now that it has passed the House.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, declared that he would not put the bill to a vote after Mr. Biden vowed to veto it earlier this week.

House Speaker Mike Johnson urged Mr. Schumer to reconsider, saying refusing to consider the measure was a “catastrophic decision with global implications.”

“Yet again, it is President Biden and Senator Schumer himself who are standing in the way of getting Israel the resources it desperately needs to defend itself,” said Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican.

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

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