Mar 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Progressives want much more from Biden on Gaza

Rep. Cori Bush, wearing a black blazer, blue shirt and blue scarf, speaks in behind microphones flanked by several colleagues.

Rep. Cori Bush. Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images.

President Biden's efforts to send humanitarian aid to Gaza aren't nearly enough for progressive members of Congress — so much so that one of them won't commit to voting for him in her state's primary, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Biden's struggle to win over his left flank in Washington comes as he also faces protests from pro-Palestinian voters in state primaries.

Driving the news: Biden will announce at the State of the Union on Thursday that he has ordered the U.S. military to conduct an "emergency mission" to construct a temporary port in Gaza, Axios' Barak Ravid reported.

  • The aim of the port would be to facilitate hundreds of trucks of aid into the region each day.
  • The announcement comes less than a week after after the U.S. military also began airdropping aid into Gaza at Biden's direction.

What we're hearing: Biden will also renew his commitment to "a hostage deal that would result in an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for at least the next six weeks," according to briefing materials sent to Democratic offices.

What they're saying: "If the port brings in hundreds of trucks a day, that's great, but we need a ceasefire now," Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) told Axios.

  • Bowman, a member of the progressive "Squad," added that Biden should press for the "release of the hostages in the West Bank and Gaza, not just in Gaza" and a "pathway to peace for the Palestinians."
  • Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said Biden's call for a ceasefire should be for a "lasting one," rather than a temporary deal, and that the U.S. should restart funding for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), asked what Biden should say about Israel, said simply: "That they need to end the onslaught."

Reality check: "I'm hoping to hear all of that," said Bowman – but, he acknowledged, "I probably won't."

Zoom in: Bush declined to say whether she planned to vote for Biden in the Missouri primary later this month amid a nationwide effort to get pro-Palestinian Democrats to vote "uncommitted."

  • "Right now my focus is making sure that we save lives now, because if we do the work to save lives now then we protect our democracy in November," she told Axios.
  • Bush added that "how we save our democracy is by listening to ... the voters and the more than 70% of Democrats saying they want a ceasefire."

The backdrop: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) joined 100,000 others in voting "uncommitted" in Michigan's primary last month.

  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said she didn't vote in her state's primary on Tuesday.

The other side: Biden "should stay consistent with what he has been saying, which is that we've got to get the hostages home," moderate Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told Axios.

  • Gottheimer added that Biden should be "putting pressure on Hamas, putting pressure on the Qataris, on the Egyptians, to get this [hostage] deal across the finish line."
  • Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) said it's "very important for the president to come out strongly in support of Israel's right to defend itself."
  • Both pro-Israel lawmakers also signaled support for Biden's efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the region.

What's next: Bush said she and other members plan to wear "Free Palestine" pins during the address, and her guest is a Palestinian constituent who had nearly three dozen family members killed in Gaza.

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