GOP House Appropriators Bring Bill to Squeeze Biden Into Unblocking Israel Weapons Shipments

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 14, 2024Politics
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House Republicans plan to put the Israel Security Assistance Support Act to a vote on May 15, forcing Democrats to take a stand on President Joe Biden's Israel policy.

Republican appropriators in the House of Representatives are advancing a bill to compel President Joe Biden’s administration to deliver all the weapons Congress has appropriated for Israel after the administration paused some weapons deliveries and threatened to block more.

Several congressional Republicans expressed outrage last week after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the administration had delayed delivery of a shipment of “high-payload munitions” and after President Biden threatened to withhold more lethal aid if Israeli forces proceeded with a large-scale military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

On Friday, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee announced legislation, dubbed the “Israel Security Assistance Support Act,” that they say will compel President Biden to deliver all forms of appropriated aid for Israel regardless of his misgivings over the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.

The legislation is prepared by House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), and committee Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio).

The bill, drafted as a resolution, expresses condemnation of President Biden’s decision to pause certain arms deliveries and calls on the president to utilize appropriated taxpayer funds as intended by congressional appropriators. The bill would also freeze funds meant for the offices of the defense secretary, state secretary, and the president’s National Security and Homeland Security Councils, until they certify that they’ve delivered appropriated defense articles to Israel.

“Unlike the Administration, House Appropriators will not waver in our ironclad support for Israel,” the House Appropriations Republicans said Friday. “The House and Senate acted on the will of the people, overwhelmingly providing Israel with the firepower to send a message: the U.S. and our allies will not cower to terrorist organizations like Hamas. The Administration is expected to utilize the very aid it requested to equip Israel with what it needs to defend itself, destroy Hamas, and maintain peace in the region.”

White House ‘Strongly, Strongly’ Opposes Constraints

The Biden administration has raised concerns that a large-scale military operation in Rafah would bring undue risks to civilians and has insisted the Israeli military has not articulated a sufficient plan to minimize those risks. Articulating his threat to withhold certain weapons shipments last week, President Biden said civilians already “have been killed in Gaza as a consequence” of Israel’s use of 2,000-pound bombs.

Mr. Austin, announcing the decision to delay the shipment of “high-payload” weapons to Israel, said the pause is not a “final determination” and that the administration continues to review the use of these weapons.

“We have paused a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan added during a Monday press briefing.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also rebuffed the latest efforts of the Republican House appropriators during the Monday press briefing.

“We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the President’s ability to deploy U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

Despite the pause in aid deliveries they’ve communicated thus far, the White House press secretary said the Biden administration still intends to “spend every last cent appropriated” including funds approved last month in a $95 billion foreign security assistance supplemental that combined aid for Israel with further U.S. support for Ukraine’s war with Russia, alliance-building in the Indo-Pacific region, and global humanitarian relief efforts.

Republican Bill Could Divide Democrats

The bill brought by the Republican House appropriators could expose a rift within the Democratic Party and its base over the ongoing Gaza conflict.

The conflict has already proven to be a contentious issue for the Democratic Party’s base. The National Muslim Democratic Council, a group representing Muslim Democrat voters, threatened in October to withhold support for President Biden and other Democrats in the 2024 election if they did not push more forcefully for a ceasefire in Gaza. Some Democratic presidential primary voters have cast “uncommitted” ballots in primary races in protest of the support the Biden administration has given for the Israeli war effort.

Some congressional Democrats have also pressed for a ceasefire, attempted to place conditions on new rounds of military aid for Israel, and voted in opposition to the $95 billion foreign security supplemental.

On the flip side, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) told NTD News he strongly disagreed with the Biden administration’s decision to pause some aid for Israel and said he’d seen no conduct by the Israeli side that would justify such a pause.

Twenty-six pro-Israel Democratic House members also sent a letter to Mr. Sullivan on May 10, expressing their consternation with the decision to delay aid for Israel.

“The President’s unyielding commitment to passing emergency supplemental funding showed the world our commitment. When we abandon these duties, we leave a vacuum of American leadership for our anti-democratic adversaries to fill,” the 26 House Democrats wrote.

The House Democrats called on Mr. Sullivan to brief them about the decision to pause certain weapons deliveries and help them to “better understand how and when the aid that Congress has authorized and appropriated for Israel will be delivered.”

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