Apr 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Infuriated Democrats grapple with GOP vote to blast Biden

President Biden, wearing a blue suit, light blue shirt and maroon tie, speaking at a podium on a table in front of a gold-colored curtain.

President Biden. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

House Democrats are fuming over their Republican colleagues' plans to hold a vote denouncing what they say is President Biden's "one-sided pressure" on Israel.

Why it matters: Many pro-Israel Democrats, particularly Jewish lawmakers, are struggling to balance their affinity for Israel with their support of the president — while accusing Republicans of playing politics with a war.

  • "There's the work that all of the serious adults are trying to work on [to address] an incredibly complicated and gut-wrenching situation, and then there is this nonsense," Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio) told Axios.

Zoom in: The three-page, non-binding resolution introduced by Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) opposes "efforts to place one-sided pressure on Israel with respect to Gaza."

Driving the news: The House on Friday voted to advance the resolution to a final vote, which is set to come up next week and will likely pass with near-universal support from Republicans.

  • But some Democrats plan to help pad their margins: Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) told Axios he will vote for the measure.
  • Rep. Don Davis (D-N.C.) suggested he would vote for it as well. "On that one – I tend to [be] very supportive of Israel, so I'm going to continue to be clear in that support," he said.

The backdrop: Republicans have held a score of Israel-related votes since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that Democrats say are primarily aimed at driving a wedge into their party — and it's worked.

  • 46 Democrats broke with their party in voting for a standalone Israel aid package in February that Democratic leaders opposed because it did not include aid for Ukraine or Palestinians.
  • Several other Israel-related measures have garnered around a dozen Democratic defections, such as one in December equating antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
  • And 22 Democrats voted with Republicans to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in November over her defense of a controversial pro-Palestinian chant.

Yes, but: This resolution stands apart because it takes direct aim at President Biden.

  • Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) a member of Democratic leadership, told Axios of Democratic defections: "There could be a few, but [the measure is] pretty bad."

Between the lines: Many Democrats are still undecided, with some raging about Republicans "politicizing" the war in Gaza.

  • "This has nothing to do with helping Israel," Landsman said, calling it a "partisan political resolution" that makes Israel "more divisive as an issue."
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) told Axios: "Look, I try to stand with Israel every which way I can, even though they've had resolutions that have divided this caucus ... this is just another attempt to do that."

In a sign of Democrats' tortured calculus, however, Moskowitz acknowledged there "are paragraphs in there that I agree with, obviously – it talks about the establishment of the state of Israel."

  • Another undecided pro-Israel House Democrat said "obviously, there are points that are categorically true."

The other side: Several pro-Israel Democrats said they are firmly against the resolution and defended Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said Biden is "one of the best presidents for Israel" and that she's "not about to start bashing him."
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said Biden has been "effective in getting Netanyahu to start providing more humanitarian aid ... so I think Biden's done a good job."
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