Political Football

House Dems respond to GOP ads accusing them of opposing security funding to Israel

Rep. Elaine Luria told JI the attacks are ‘a flat-out lie’ and ‘disgraceful,’ and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux said they are ‘nonsense’

Steve Helber/AP

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) speaks to participants at a USO event in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2019.

House Democrats pushed back on Wednesday against Republican attack ads accusing them of not supporting Israeli security after their votes on a GOP procedural motion last week.

The controversy centers around a failed motion to recommit introduced by Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) last Thursday which would have blocked passage of a supplemental funding bill for Capitol security — which House Republicans opposed — by returning it back to the Appropriations Committee, potentially killing it entirely. 

Gonzales also proposed an amendment to the bill for Appropriations Committee consideration that would have entirely replaced the Capitol security funding with additional funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The House vote, however, was only on sending the security supplement bill back to the committee, not on the Iron Dome amendment.

The motion failed largely along party lines, with all Democrats present voting against it, as well as one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) did not vote on the measure.

House Republican leadership has sought to use the vote to paint House Democrats as unsupportive of Israel. Meanwhile, the conservative group American Action Network launched a five-figure ad buy, according to Fox News, claiming four Democrats — Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) and Susan Wild (D-PA) — abandoned Israel while it was under attack by voting against Gonzales’s motion.

Luria called the attacks “disgraceful” and “a flat-out lie.”

“The Republicans have taken this as a vehicle to just create a narrative that’s false and say that based on this procedural vote we — being every Democrat — were somehow voting against Israel and against supporting the Iron Dome,” Luria told Jewish Insider. “It’s absurd, it’s harmful, to try to make an issue that’s important to the security of Israel, to our strongest ally in the Middle East, and to try to use it as a political tool, especially when it’s just a straight-out lie.”

Bourdeaux similarly characterized the attacks as scurrilous.

“I voted to provide critical funding for law enforcement at the Capitol after 140 officers were injured in the January 6th attack,” Bourdeaux explained to JI. “Republicans opposed funding for the Capitol Police and our National Guard, and in a bizarre procedural gimmick, tried to make this about funding for Iron Dome. This kind of nonsense is why Republicans lost in Georgia.”

The motion to recommit was one of multiple attempts by Republicans last week to put Democrats in a bind on matters relating to Israel. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) unsuccessfully attempted to use a procedural maneuver to scuttle planned votes on opioid addiction treatments and condemning anti-Asian hate crimes and instead hold a vote on sanctioning Hamas — legislation that passed the House in 2019. 

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), who was leading House Democrats on the floor at the time, called Mast’s move a “red herring” which “would hand control of the House over to [Republicans].”

“Let’s not distract from the bills that we’re here to move forward today,” Scanlon added. House Democrats voted unanimously — with the exception of Golden, who again did not vote — to proceed with business as planned.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attempted to capitalize on the Gonzales procedural vote, alleging that “Instead of standing with Israel, Democrats continue to stand aside.” And on the Mast legislation, he told The Washington Free Beacon: “Today every member in the House will have a choice between siding with our ally or siding with a status quo that will only perpetuate the unrest… the House should make it clear to the world that we stand united in support of Israel.”

Luria criticized the attacks as a transparent campaign tactic.

“This is to go after Democrats [in] seats they think they can and want to win back so that they can hand the gavel to McCarthy,” Luria said. “It’s purely a political maneuver. I think this is an issue that shouldn’t be politicized. I can understand policy differences, but strong bipartisan support of Israel in the U.S. Congress is not something that should be politicized because I think it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.”

“The fact that anyone wants to send a message that our Congress is somehow divided on [Iron Dome] is really damaging,” she continued.

Luria emphasized that she has introduced and supported a range of measures intended to bolster Israel’s security and combat regional threats and supports the $3.8 billion in military aid the U.S. sends to Israel annually. All four members targeted in the attack ads also signed onto a bipartisan letter earlier this year expressing support for continuing unconditioned U.S. aid to Israel.

AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann told JI the organization “[does] not take a position on these types of procedural motions. We are confident that there will be overwhelming bipartisan support when Congress votes on funding for Iron Dome.”