May 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House GOP drafts ICC sanctions as "precaution"

Rep. Michael McCaul, wearing a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and blue tie, grasping a podium.

Rep. Michael McCaul. Photo: ALLISON BAILEY/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images.

House Republicans are preparing legislation to sanction International Criminal Court officials as a "precaution" against potential arrest warrants of Israeli officials, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Pro-Israel members of Congress in both parties have warned repeatedly that the ICC risks consequences from the U.S. if it moves forward with the warrants.

What they're saying: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) confirmed the legislation is in the works and told Axios he and other GOP lawmakers have been in contact with ICC prosecutor Karim Khan.

  • "We want to emphasize to him that going down this road of arrest warrants is a really bad idea and it's going to blow up the relationship," he said.
  • "We're not sure if the arrest warrants are imminent, but it's sort of a precaution to let them know that, if they do, we have this legislation ready to go. It won't be put on the floor unless we have to."

Zoom in: McCaul said the bill would be a House companion to Sen. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) legislation, introduced last February, to sanction ICC officials involved in probes of U.S. allies who are not ICC members, such as Israel.

  • It's an idea he previously floated to Axios when news of the potential arrest warrants broke, saying at the time "we hope it doesn't come to that."
  • Cotton led a dozen Senate Republicans in a letter to Khan on Monday warning that arrest warrants "will result in severe sanctions against you and your institution."
  • A bipartisan group of senators held a virtual meeting with ICC officials last week to express concerns about the possible arrest warrants, Axios' Barak Ravid and Stephen Neukam reported.

The other side: Khan said in a statement last Friday that his office "seeks to engage constructively with all stakeholders whenever such dialogue is consistent with its mandate ... to act independently and impartially."

  • "That independence and impartiality are undermined, however, when individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or against Court personnel," he said.
  • "The Office insists that all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence its officials cease immediately."
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