May 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats try to stamp out defections on GOP's Israel arms sales bill

Rep. Katherine Clark, wearing a red blazer and black shirt, surrounded by colleagues under a blue sky.

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark. Photo: Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu via Getty Images

House Democratic leadership is throwing its full weight against a Republican bill to force President Biden's hand on allowing weapons shipments to Israel to move forward.

Why it matters: Dozens of pro-Israel Democrats have criticized Biden for withholding the arms transfers, and at least one is likely to vote for the bill.

  • The legislation, set for a House vote on Thursday, would restrict funding to the Pentagon and State Department if Biden refuses to comply.
  • The White House has signaled it would likely veto the bill, and it's not clear if it would get a vote in the Senate.

Driving the news: In a notice to congressional offices on Tuesday, House Minority Whip Katherine Clark's (D-Mass.) office said Democrats are "urged to VOTE NO" on the bill.

  • That means Democratic leadership's whip team will be charged with actively persuading their colleagues to vote against it.

What they're saying: "The legislation would constitute an unprecedented limitation on President Biden's executive authority and administrative discretion to implement U.S. foreign policy," the notice said.

  • The notice accuses Republicans of "rushing" the bill by not having it go through the regular committee process, calling it "another partisan stunt by Extreme MAGA Republicans who are determined to hurt President Biden politically."

Context: Biden is withholding the shipment of large bombs to Israel in an effort to pressure the country not to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

  • Republicans have harshly criticized the move — and Biden's threat of further pauses if the Rafah assault goes forward — with many accusing Biden of abandoning Israel.
  • The Republican-led House Oversight Committee is investigating the pauses.
  • White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, "We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the president's ability to deploy U.S. security assistance."
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