House GOP pushes bill to force Biden to continue transfer of weapons to Israel

Written by on May 16, 2024

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans are pushing ahead with a bill to condemn President Joe Biden’s approach to Israel and force him to send arms shipments, even after the administration notified Congress about a new $1 billion weapons deal to the U.S. ally.

The developments come amid continued fallout from Biden’s pause of a bomb shipment to Israel and his warning the U.S. won’t supply weapons that could be used in an invasion of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than a million civilians have sought shelter.

Republicans have seized on the actions to attack Biden, accusing him of betraying Israel due to political pressure. The White House and many Democrats have countered the GOP-led bill is misleading and distorts Biden’s policy on the Israel-Hamas war.

The Biden administration informed Congress on Tuesday that it’s moving forward with more than $1 billion in new arms agreements with Israel, according to sources familiar with the matter at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Mike Johnson, however, signaled the move wouldn’t stop Republicans from bringing the GOP’s Israel Security Assistance Support Act to the floor.

“We’ll have to see what effect that has on the legislation,” Johnson said of the new weapons deal, “but I think it is important for us to express again the will of Congress on the matter, and so I don’t think we’ll be changing what we do on the legislation.”

The legislation urges the “expeditious delivery” of defense articles and services to Israel, and reaffirms Israel’s right to self-defense. It would withhold funds for certain administration officials like secretary of defense and secretary of state until such defense articles are delivered.

The chamber is expected to hold a vote on the bill either Wednesday or Thursday.

The White House has said it “strongly opposes” what it called an “unnecessary” bill that could undermine the president’s ability to carry out foreign policy. If it came to Biden’s desk, the White House said the president would veto it.

Johnson, in response to the administration’s threat of a veto, on Wednesday claimed Biden “has turned his back on Israel and is now carrying water for Hamas and Iran.”

“I think it is a dangerous decision for wrongful legal purposes,” Johnson added. “And it could have catastrophic effects with our very important ally Israel. And we’ve denounced it. And we’ll continue to do so.”

While the bill is likely to garner overwhelming support among Republicans, it will force a difficult vote for Democrats — and clearly show the divide on where the party stands regarding Israel.

House Democratic Caucus chairman Pete Aguilar, at the party’s weekly press conference, downplayed the divisions in the party Republicans are pouncing on.

“We understand that there’s different viewpoints within our own caucus on this, but overwhelmingly House Democrats will reject this overly political bill,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar added that the “important thing” is Democratic support to protect Israel, noting the party provided significant votes to help pass the foreign aid package and government funding bill — both of which included funds for Israel.

“That’s overwhelmingly where we stand on these issues,” he said.

The GOP bill could garner some Democratic support specifically from the 26 lawmakers who wrote a letter to the White House last week raising concerns over Biden’s decision to halt sending bombs to Israel amid fears of civilian casualties in case of a large-scale invasion into Rafah.

The White House ramped up the rhetoric last week against Israel’s expected invasion of Rafah but attempted to turn down the temperature this week.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, in lengthy remarks at Monday’s daily press briefing, said he wanted to get back to the “basics” as he reiterated the administration’s view on the war, including that Israel has a right to defend itself from the threat posed by Hamas but also their duty to protect civilians and the need to secure a cease-fire deal in exchange for the release of hostages.

On weapons transfers specifically, Sullivan said the administration is “continuing to send military assistance and we will ensure that Israel receives the full amount provided in the supplemental. We have paused the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities. We are talking to the Israeli government about this.”

The administration has also sought to stress its overall support for Israel.

“The bill is a misguided reaction to a deliberate distortion of the Administration’s approach to Israel,” the White House said in a statement of administrative policy. “The President has been clear: we will always ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself. Our commitment to Israel is ironclad.”

ABC News’ Selina Wang and Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Reader's opinions

Leave a Reply

Current track