A little over three weeks ago, Democrats and Republicans gathered at sunset for a candlelight vigil on the east steps of the U.S. Capitol to honor the victims of the Oct. 7 attack in Israel and to show support for the country. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is Jewish and was the designated speaker for Democrats at the event, tearfully thanked her colleagues for coming together so quickly.
“This moment of us coming together, whether it’s the disorganization and disunity in Israel prior to this point or here in our country, when Israel and the United States need one another, it’s moments like this where we step up,” she said, fighting back tears.
After joining 11 other House Democrats on Thursday night to vote in favor of supplying Israel with weapons to help fight its war in Gaza, Wasserman Schultz was again reportedly crying — but this time for a different reason.
Semafor reported that she was one of two Democrats who left the floor in tears after the vote. Many in the caucus saw it as a GOP ploy to give Republicans an issue that could be used against Democrats — who might be accused of failing to support Israel if they voted no — or to make them vote against the White House, which had threatened to veto the bill because of the IRS cuts it outlines.
Wasserman Schultz didn’t deny that she had cried but told HuffPost that she remained angry at Republicans for forcing her to choose.
“Yeah, I’ve been crying like every day for the last three weeks at some point or another. This is a very emotional and difficult time to be a Jewish person,” she said.
“It was just a very emotional vote.”
The matter has also been complicated by concern over Israel’s strikes and ground offensive in Gaza. The Hamas-run Health Ministry there says the retaliations have killed more than 9,000 Palestinians, including thousands of children. Some Democratic lawmakers have called for either a cease-fire or a “humanitarian pause” for the sake of those living in the enclave.
Democrats and Republicans are at odds over aid for Israel and Ukraine after attacks on both by Hamas and Russia respectively, with the conflicts leading to atrocities and alleged war crimes committed against civilians.
But the parties cannot agree which country deserves help more urgently — or, when it comes to some Republicans, if Ukraine deserves it at all. Republicans want to split Israel aid off separately to speed up its delivery, while the White House wants to bundle it together with support for Ukraine and Indo-Pacific countries like Taiwan, as well as a funding boost for U.S. border security.
The package Wasserman Schultz said she reluctantly voted for tied $14.3 billion in military aid for Israel with a cut in funding to the IRS, which brought the bill’s price tag to $26.7 billion over 10 years.
With a dozen House Democrats voting in favor of the bill compared with two Republicans voting against it, GOP members hope the tally will convince Senate Democrats and the White House to agree to their demand for Israel aid, something that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said won’t happen.
Wasserman Schultz explained the rationale for her vote on social media Thursday, saying: “I urged many of my colleagues to vote against this bill because of the horrendous precedent it set and the urgent need to pass the full emergency supplemental proposed by President [Joe] Biden.
“For me, as a Jew, as a Zionist and as the representative of a large Jewish community, I personally needed to cast my vote to stand by Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, in this moment of crisis.”
After the vote, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called Israel “our greatest ally in the Middle East.”
“This is necessary and critical assistance as Israel fights for its right to exist,” he said in a statement.
On Friday, Wasserman Schultz questioned Republicans’ commitment to the country because of what she said was cynicism behind the bill.
“This isn’t a prospective need,” she said. “This is an urgent immediate need right now, and they cynically required conditioned funding in order to be able to provide that aid. To me, that shows that they’re really not committed to Israel and her needs.”
Wasserman Schultz said October’s candlelight vigil was a “unifying moment” and she appreciated Republicans’ concern for Israel, but that it was time for action.
“Now you have to step up and actually show that you’re going to be pro-Israel, show that you’re for protecting and preserving [Israel],” she said.
“And what that bill represented was the furthest thing from that.”