16 Democrats vote with Republicans to restrict Biden’s ability to withhold aid to Israel

16 Democrats voted with Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday to restrict President Joe Biden’s ability to withhold aid to Israel.

The legislation, which is unlikely to pass in the Senate, says that “no federal funds may be used to withhold, halt, reverse, or cancel the delivery of defense articles or defense services to Israel.” It would also require that some money meant for the office of the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense “may not be spent until each office certifies to Congress that any withheld defense articles or services are delivered to Israel.”

The legislation came after Mr Biden said that the US would not ship weapons to Israel if its military attacked Rafah as part of its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. Mr Biden also confirmed that the administration paused a shipment of 1,800 bombs weighing around 2,000lbs (907kg) and 1,700 bombs weighing 500lbs (227kg) bound for Israel. At the same time, the Biden administration said earlier this week that it would send $1bn in other weapons and munitions to the country.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said the measure was meant to show support for Israel amid Mr Biden’s criticism of the Israeli government’s military strategy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s calls for new elections in Israel. The president would likely veto this legislation if it reached his desk.

“We want the President to hear this loud and clear,” he said earlier in the day on the steps of the Capitol. “He said just not long ago that we have to have ironclad support for Israel. Well, that’s what he previously proclaimed, but his actions are doing exactly the opposite. This is a catastrophic decision with global implications. It is obviously being done as a political calculation, and we cannot let this stand.”

Speaker Mike Johnson and leaders of the House Republican Caucus hold a press conference on a bill that would restrict Joe Biden’s ability to withhold military aid to Israel (Getty Images)

Lois Frankel, a Jewish Democrat from Florida, was one of the Democrats who broke ranks to support the legislation. She explained her vote to The Independent beforehand, saying: “Israel is under attack and her existence is at risk…Whatever we’ve committed should be sent without delay.”

She added that she did not “like the bill as a whole” but thought it was important to send a message affirming her support for a US ally.

The full list of Democrats who supported the bill included Henry Cuellar, Lois Frankel, Jared Moskowitz, Josh Gottheimer, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Ritchie Torres, Mary Peltola, Frank Pallone, Greg Landsman, Jared Golden, Angie Craig, Matt Cartwright, David Scott, Darren Soto, and Tom Suozzi. Many of the Democrats, such as Mr Cuellar and Ms Gluesenkamp Perez, hail from swing districts or even districts that voted for Donald Trump.

Others, such as Mr Gottheimer and Mr Moskowitz, are Jewish, while others such as Mr Torres are ardent supporters of Israel.

The move came despite the fact that House Minority Whip Katherine Clark advised Democrats to vote against the legislation.

Progressives including a number of Democrats who supported the president’s move to restrict weapons shipments (or halt them entirely) opposed the bill alongside the majority of their party.

Ilhan Omar, a progressive and a member of the Squad, derided the bill as an attempt to “take away our President’s constitutional right to carry out the duties of this country on behalf of another country” as she spoke to The Independent.

The vote signals just the latest split among Democrats when it comes to Israel. Ms Omar and other progressive Democrats have called for Mr Biden to do more to provide more aid to Gaza or pressure Israel to stop what they consider indiscriminate bombing.

Conversely, other Democrats have criticised progressives. Last year, many of the same Democrats who voted for this legislation, voted to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the only Palestinian-American congresswoman, for her remarks about Israel and her use of the term “from the River to the Sea.”

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