These 16 House Democrats bucked Biden, party leadership on Israel bill

Sixteen House Democrats voted to undo President Biden’s pause on some weapons shipments to Israel on Thursday, breaking with the White House and party leadership, who urged its members to oppose the GOP-led bill.

The chamber approved the legislation in a 224-187 vote, a rebuke of Biden’s decision to halt the shipment of 3,500 heavy bombs to Israel and his warning that the U.S. would stop sending additional offensive weapons — including bombs and artillery shells — to Israel if its forces invade Rafah.

Top Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue urged members in their ranks to oppose the bill: House Democratic leadership whipped against the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his chamber would not stage a vote on the measure, and the White House warned that if the bill landed on Biden’s desk, he would veto it.

Despite that full-court press, 16 Democrats voted for the bill, including staunchly pro-Israel members, lawmakers running in tough re-election races and those who have a large population of Jewish constituents in their districts.

Reps. Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Don Davis (N.C.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Jared Golden (Maine), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Greg Landsman (Ohio), Jared Moskowitz (Fla.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Mary Peltola (Alaska), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), David Scott (Ga.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Tom Suozzi (N.Y.) and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.) all supported the legislation.

Some of those Democrats, to be sure, denounced GOP leadership for their handling of the legislation, slamming the bill as a political attempt to divide the caucus, which has been fractured over the war in the Middle East. Pro-Israel Democrats have at times found themselves at odds with progressives up in arms about the mounting humanitarian deaths in the Gaza strip.

At the end of the day, however, a handful of them supported the measure out of opposition to the president’s recent decisions and, perhaps, as a way to avoid GOP attacks on the campaign trail that they cast a vote against Israel, the U.S.’s closest ally in the Middle East.

“I’ll support it because I’m frustrated and concerned about the decision and the rhetoric around the decision,” Landsman, a Jewish Democrat, told The Hill this week. “ But the larger issue is that they again chose to divide Congress and use Israel, as they have with antisemitism, as a political weapon, and that is bad for everyone, except maybe their candidates.”

“From Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran and its other proxies, Israel continues to face threats to her very existence,” Frankel, another Jewish Democrat, said in a statement after the vote. “I thank President Biden and my colleagues in Congress for the ongoing bipartisan support of Israel’s security; we must now stand by our commitment to Israel and continue to send the vital assistance Congress has promised. Israel’s security is our security.”

Of the 16 Democrats who supported the bill on Thursday, 10 of them penned a letter to national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week that said they were “deeply concerned” about the message Biden’s weapons hold sent to Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist groups. A total of 26 Democrats signed the letter.

“With democracy under assault around the world, we cannot undermine our ally Israel, especially in her greatest hour of need. America’s commitments must always be ironclad,” the group wrote.

Democrats were not the only ones to have defections on their side for the Israel vote Thursday. Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voted “no” despite GOP leadership touting the measure as central for pushing back on Biden.

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