on the hill

House passes Hamas sanctions bill, Iran resolution in by wide bipartisan margins

The House voted for new sanctions on Hamas’ international backers and a policy of opposing Iran’s nuclear program ‘by any means necessary’ but rejected an effort to censure Rashida Tlaib

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) gives a brief statement to reporters about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the U.S. Capitol October 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The House of Representatives voted last night by wide bipartisan margins in favor of new sanctions on Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups, and a nonbinding resolution opposing Iran’s nuclear program. But it defeated, in a bipartisan vote, an effort to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

The Hamas International Financing Prevention Act, the sanctions bill, passed the House by a 363-46 vote. Most of the 45 no votes came from progressive Democrats; Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was the only Republican to vote no. The bill would place new sanctions on individuals, entities and foreign governments that provide support to Palestinian terror groups. 

Critics had expressed concerns about a provision in the bill that would require specific presidential waivers to allow any humanitarian aid to move into Gaza and the West Bank. The bill, as originally introduced, had a blanket sanctions exemption for humanitarian aid that did not require individual waivers.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) warned during floor debate that the waiver requirement would slow the provision of humanitarian aid to Palestinians, adding that he would have supported the bill as originally introduced.

Citing comments by the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) advocating for slowing down aid to the Palestinians, Castro said the provision “amounts to intentional collective punishment against the people of Gaza.”

During the floor debate, Mast repeated inflammatory arguments he made during a recent committee meeting about the bill, questioning whether there is a distinction between Palestinian civilians and terrorist groups.

“I would encourage the other side to not so lightly throw around the idea of innocent Palestinian civilians,” Mast said, arguing that, ideologically, most Palestinians could be described as terrorists. “I don’t think we would so lightly throw around the term innocent Nazi civilians during World War II… There’s very few innocent Palestinian civilians.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) responded that it is important to be “very careful and most often… seek to avoid making comparisons” to the Nazis and the Holocaust. He added that it’s important to “recognize the humanity of the civilians, all the civilians, caught in the middle of this horrific war,” and that Israel’s war is “against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people.”

The resolution on Iran’s nuclear program passed by a 354-53 vote, with 50 Democrats, again largely progressives, and three Republicans, Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC), Warren Davidson (R-OH) and Massie, opposing.

That legislation declares that it is U.S. policy that a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be permitted “under any circumstances” and that the U.S. will “use all means necessary to prevent” that outcome. It also expresses American “support for the freedom of action of partners and allies, including Israel, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Opponents of the legislation have called its language overly broad, arguing that it could be read to endorse and support a ground invasion of Iran or a U.S. nuclear strike on the country. They have also said that unconditionally supporting partners’ actions could endanger U.S. forces.

“Congress needs to be careful about how our decisions can put [service members] in harm’s way,” Castro said in floor debate. “While this is a nonbinding resolution, it would speak for the House of Representatives without meaningfully engaging with the broad range of tools at our disposal to prevent Iranian proliferation.”

The House voted 222-186 to defeat a resolution by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to censure Tlaib over past antisemitic comments, her response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and her speech to anti-Israel protesters at the Capitol last month. 

The resolution repeatedly described that protest, which was non-violent, as an “insurrection.” Democrats roundly rejected the resolution given Greene’s own history of antisemitic comments, and her efforts to defend and minimize the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Twenty-three Republicans, representing a broad cross-section of the party and including several of Tlaib’s Michigan colleagues, voted with all House Democrats to defeat the censure attempt. Most notably, Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), one of two Jewish Republicans who was a key figure in Republicans’ successful bid to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the Foreign Affairs Committee, voted against censuring Tlaib.

“If we want to call balls and strikes, members of both parties have said antisemitic remarks. They have,” Miller told CNN earlier in the day. “Marjorie Taylor Greene has said antisemitic remarks. Rashida Tlaib has said antisemitic remarks. I’m going to call it out on both sides of the aisle. I’m sick of it.”

He did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement after the vote, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), the co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, said in a statement that Tlaib’s “reckless spreading of misinformation about the war… foments antisemitism.”

But, she continued, “I voted to table this extreme resolution, brought by insurrectionist and antisemite Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. The resolution falsely equates Congresswoman Tlaib’s statements with the January 6th Insurrection where participants violently attempted to overthrow the United States government, causing the death of five Capitol Police officers. The impact of election denialism and violent insurrection cannot be conflated with false statements, as disagreeable as those statements may be.”

When the Tlaib censure failed, Democrats withdrew their own resolution to censure Greene.

The House voted 213-179 against a bid by New York Republican lawmakers to expel Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from the House. The final vote scrambled partisan divisions, with 31 Democrats voting against expelling Santos, 24 Republicans voting in favor of his expulsion and four Republicans and 15 Democrats voting present.

The House Ethics Committee said it will issue a final report on its sweeping investigation into Santos later this month, which could prompt further action. Several Democrats said they worried about setting a precedent by expelling a member without an Ethics Committee recommendation or a criminal conviction.

The House passed by voice vote a bill requiring annual reports on the antisemitic, anti-Israel, anti-U.S. and pro-terrorism content in Palestinian education curricula sponsored by the United Nations, and a resolution urging the European Union to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

It postponed votes on a bill placing new sanctions on those who purchase and process Iran’s oil exports — targeting China — as well as a resolution condemning antisemitism and support for Hamas on college campuses.

Also yesterday, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) raised concerns about the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, including its humanitarian implications, whether there are effective alternatives and what the political end-state for Gaza would be after the invasion.

They again reiterated that “Israel suffered a barbaric attack and is well within its rights to defend itself in keeping with international law, including the protection of civilians.”

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