16 Democrats join GOP to pass controversial Israel Security Assistance Support Act

In a surprising bipartisan move, 16 Democrats break ranks to support a GOP-led bill compelling U.S. military aid to Israel, despite President Biden’s veto threat and significant human rights concerns.

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The House of Representatives recently passed the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, compelling the delivery of withheld U.S. military aid to Israel. This decision has sparked controversy, particularly because 16 Democrats joined 208 Republicans to pass the bill, defying President Joe Biden’s veto threat and raising significant concerns over human rights implications.

Introduced by House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chair Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), H.R. 8369 mandates the delivery of defense weapons to Israel, countering President Biden’s recent halts on certain weapons shipments due to concerns over civilian casualties in Gaza. Calvert’s office stated that the bill curbs “President Biden’s misguided efforts to withhold critical security resources appropriated in U.S. law.”

The bill’s provisions include:

• Condemning Biden’s decision and urging the delivery of all approved aid to Israel.

• Stripping salaries of State Department or Pentagon employees who assist in withholding aid.

• Withholding funding for the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and the National Security Council until the aid is delivered.

Democratic supporters and their motivations

The 16 Democrats who voted in favor of the bill are Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Don Davis (N.C.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Jared Golden (Maine), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Greg Landsman (Ohio), Jared Moskowitz (Fla.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Mary Sattler Peltola (Alaska), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), David Scott (Ga.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.), and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.).

These Democrats’ motivations appear varied. Some represent districts with significant pro-Israel constituents, while others may believe in maintaining strong U.S.-Israel relations for strategic reasons. For instance, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) highlighted his steadfast support, stating, “I know how I’m gonna vote, and nothing’s gonna move me off of that.”

Opposition to the bill has been vocal. The White House warned that H.R. 8369 would “undermine the president’s ability to execute an effective foreign policy” and could lead to “spiraling unintended consequences,” restricting the ability to adjust security assistance based on evolving needs.

Human rights organizations have also condemned the bill. Justice Democrats called the supporting Democrats “fringe extremists,” while the Institute for Middle East Understanding Policy Project labeled their votes “shameful.” Critics argue that compelling aid delivery amidst allegations of war crimes by Israeli forces using American arms is morally and legally troubling.

The passage of the bill has seen varied media coverage. Major outlets like CNN, Fox News, and NBC have provided limited airtime, with notable exceptions such as MSNBC, which dedicated significant coverage to the issue. Public reactions have also been polarized, with protests and social media campaigns expressing outrage over the perceived prioritization of military aid over human rights concerns.

The bill’s passage underscores the complexity of U.S.-Israel relations. While the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s security, this move complicates diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing human rights concerns in Gaza. Israel’s ongoing military actions have led to over 35,272 Palestinian deaths and 79,205 injuries, according to local officials, exacerbating international condemnation.

Despite its passage in the House, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated that the chamber may not take up the measure, citing President Biden’s veto threat. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) affirmed that Democrats would sustain the president’s veto.

Reflecting on the contentious nature of this legislation, President Biden remarked, “Our commitment to Israel is ironclad, but we must also ensure our foreign policy upholds our values and respects human rights.”

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