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House passes GOP bill rebuking Biden’s Israel weapons pause

The House has delivered a bipartisan rebuke of the Biden administration’s pledge to withhold certain heavy bombs from Israel amid its ongoing conflict in Gaza, passing a bill designed to compel delivery of the weapons.

But Democrats largely held the line amid heavy lobbying against the GOP-led bill from the White House and their party’s leadership against what many deemed a poorly crafted, political ploy to divide them. Only 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the legislation, which the Biden administration has threatened to veto.

Ultimately, the measure passed 224-187.

President Joe Biden’s pause on shipments of heavy bombs to Israel’s conservative government, made on CNN last week, has divided Democrats – causing particular agita among vulnerable and staunchly pro-Israel members. Even so, senior Democrats in and out of the administration tamped down on defections through a concerted pressure campaign throughout the week.

“This administration wants to dictate how Israel executes the war that they were thrust into,” House Foreign Affairs Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the floor as he advocated for the measure. “[Israel] did not ask for this war. They did not start this war. Hamas started this war.”

The legislation would slash budgets for the offices of the defense secretary, secretary of state and National Security Council if Biden doesn’t deliver the stalled heavy bombs. It also includes language that would condemn “the Biden administration’s decision to pause certain arms transfers to Israel.”

Three conservatives joined most Democrats in voting no: Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

Prior to passage, the full House GOP leadership team pressured Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to take up the legislation for an up-or-down vote, something the New York Democrat indicated his chamber has no plans to do.

“They are clearly making this decision to appeal to a small subset and element in their party,” Speaker Mike Johnson said of Democrats. “The president himself and Leader Schumer both within just the last several weeks were saying that we should stand with Israel. They were using the right language and now they are doing a complete about-face. Why?”

Even if the Senate were to take up the measure, which Schumer indicated Wednesday won’t become law — “the president has already said he’d veto it, so it’s not going anywhere” — Democratic leaders said they would be able to sustain a presidential veto.

“We will sustain the President’s veto, as we have done consistently throughout the 118th Congress,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Thursday.

Bipartisan support for the key U.S. ally has been apparent throughout the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Almost all House members backed a resolution expressing support for Israel in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack last fall, while lawmakers came together to provide billions of dollars in aid as part of a package that included support for Ukraine and Taiwan, as well.

Many of Israel’s fiercest advocates of Israel blasted the bill. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) called it “pseudo pro-Israel” legislation.

“This is just a communicative act,” he said on the floor. “This resolution has poison pills, including condemning Biden by name, in a clear effort to get as little Democratic support as possible.”

The California Democrat added he was working with McCaul on a “much better response” that would be considered through the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Nicholas Wu contributed.

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