wartime allies

In Washington, a massive show of support for Israel on Capitol Hill

More than 400 House members signed onto a resolution condemning the weekend attacks by Hamas

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC, October 5, 2023.

Legislators in Washington introduced a number of resolutions and issued statements in support of aid to Israel and support for both the Israeli and American Jewish communities in response to Hamas’ large-scale terror attack in Israel that began on Saturday.

More than 93% of the House — 409 members — signed onto a resolution, led by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Greg Meeks (D-NY), expressing support for Israel and condemning the attacks.

The signatories include members who have been critical of Israel, including Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Andre Carson (D-IN), who voted against supplemental Iron Dome funding in 2021, and Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who voted against a resolution earlier this year commemorating Israel’s founding and the Abraham Accords.

On the Republican side, the non-signatories were Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Cliff Bentz (R-OR), as well as non-voting delegates Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS) and James Moylan (R-Guam). 

Most come from the hard-right wing of the party, suggesting that additional aid to Israel could face opposition from that front down the line. Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson criticized the overall Republican focus on supporting Israel. From his former show on Fox News, Carlson became a major driving force against Ukraine aid in the Republican Party, although his influence has diminished since he was fired.

Among Democrats, Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mark Pocan (D-WA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Summer Lee (D-PA), Delia Ramirez (D-IL), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), as well as delegates Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI) and Gregorio Sablan (D-NMI), had not yet signed on as of Tuesday evening.

The resolution is expected to come to the House floor shortly after a new speaker is elected — as soon as Wednesday but potentially days away.

Separately, Reps. Zach Nunn (R-IA) and Don Davis (D-NC) introduced another resolution sending a similar message with 33 cosponsors. And Reps. Claudia Tenney (D-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Max Miller (R-OH), Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced a bill with 15 colleagues to provide $2 billion in supplemental Iron Dome funding — ahead of any formal request for additional aid.

With an eye toward the increased threats that American Jews routinely face during periods of conflict in Israel, a group of senators — Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Katie Britt (R-AL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) — released a statement arguing that supplemental funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program should be included in the upcoming Israel aid package.

The program — which has been chronically underfunded — provides grants to nonprofits and religious institutions to improve their security.

Murphy said that, in addition to supporting Israel’s defense, “I am also focused on making sure our Jewish community at home is protected from a potential rise in anti-Semitic threats.” He also noted on X that “Muslim centers of worship will be under threat too.”

“We must also vigilantly guard against terrorism and the forces of hate here at home” as well as aiding Israel, Britt, the ranking member of the subcommittee, added.

Karen Paikin Barall, the associate vice president of public affairs and executive director of the Advocacy Corps at the Jewish Federations of North America, expressed support for the effort.

“It is imperative at this moment, when the Jewish community is feeling shocked and vulnerable, that Congress provides houses of worship with the resources they need to protect itself,” Barall said. “We know from experience that tensions in the Middle East spill over into antisemitism at home, and our Jewish community must have the assurance that it is safe.”

Additionally, Capitol Hill is turning its eyes toward policy steps to counter Iran, in the wake of reporting linking the regime to the attacks.

Twenty Republican senators, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to freeze the $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds recently released as part of a deal to free American hostages from Iran. “To stand by and allow Iran access to these funds as Hamas infiltrates Israel and murders, rapes, and mutilates countless Israelis is unconscionable,” the letter reads. 

Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) — all up for re-election in 2024 in competitive states — similarly called for the $6 billion to be frozen.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said yesterday the U.S. would consider re-freezing the funds.

Another group of 10 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), urged the administration to “immediately convene the G7 nations” to impose “severe sanctions” on Iran that “will strike directly at the wealth that this evil brings to the Ayatollah and the Iranian mullahs.” They praised the joint statement of the U.S., France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany in support of Israel, but lamented that it “failed to direct any action toward the evil behind these attacks: Iran.”

Lawmakers are also continuing to speak out against those, particularly among the far left, that have expressed sympathy or even support for Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel.

“It is outrageous that some extremists and activists like the Democratic Socialists of America are using this attack as an opportunity to oppose lifesaving security assistance in Israel’s darkest hour. Even worse, there are voices celebrating Hamas’s vile terrorism, from celebrations in the streets to statements attempting to justify the murder of innocent civilians,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said in a statement obtained by JI. “At a time of rising global antisemitism, these attempts to portray this assault as justified resistance or create false equivalencies between these terrorists and the Israeli people’s right to defend themselves are deeply offensive, dangerous, and unacceptable.”

Rosen also pledged to “stand up to anyone, including extremists in my own party, to see that American support for Israel remains unwavering.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) plans to introduce a resolution, already supported by Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), condemning “the antisemitic and anti-Israel New York City-Democratic Socialists of America rally that celebrated the Hamas terrorist attack and the barbaric slaughter of Israelis,” JI has learned

JI also obtained a letter that Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is circulating a letter among Harvard alumni in Congress to “express our outrage and disgust” over the statement by student groups blaming Israel for the Hamas attacks and condemning the university’s response to the situation. 

“Your delayed response makes it clear you are only committed to intentionally fostering an environment that allows rampant and dangerous antisemitism on Harvard’s campus,” the letter, addressed to Harvard President Claudine Gay, reads. “This heinous statement and the support it received from over thirty student organizations across Harvard University should raise immediate concerns into Harvard’s curriculum regarding the State of Israel.”

Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), the chair of the higher education subcommittee, issued a statement on Tuesday condemning various statements by student groups supporting Hamas, and announcing plans to hold a hearing in November “to investigate antisemitism on campus and the response to that antisemitism by cowardly campus leadership.”

As growing number of lawmakers are scrambling to help constituents in Israel evacuate, Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Malliotakis led 144 colleagues on a letter calling on the administration to organize charter flights and military aircraft to assist with evacuations of Americans stranded as most U.S. airlines have canceled flights to and from Israel.

”Our offices have received harrowing reports from constituents who remain in Israel and are seeking to return to the United States as soon as possible. We write to express our grave concern for their wellbeing and safety,” the letter reads. “Given the rapidly escalating situation as Israel launches a counteroffensive, it is imperative that you use all tools at your disposal to return all U.S. nationals in Israel home who wish to do so.”

Smith sent a separate letter on the same issue, telling JI that he’s heard from more than 200 families in his district with relatives hoping to leave Israel. He said he hasn’t “heard a thing” from the administration, after initially reaching out on Saturday.

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