Democrats divided on opposition to Biden arms hold

Thirteen Democrats ultimately voted against a bill that Republicans had hoped might muster stronger bipartisan support, with nine Democrats supporting the legislation


President Joe Biden holds a press conference following a solidarity visit to Israel, on October 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv.

A bill that sought to build bipartisan consensus around legislative efforts to respond to President Joe Biden’s freeze on some arms transfers to Israel — and his threat to suspend further arms sales — picked up new bipartisan support at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting yesterday, but Democrats ultimately remained divided on the issue.

The House voted last week on a bill that sought to force the administration to unfreeze the arms sales, with just 16 Democrats supporting it. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced a second bill, the “Maintaining Our Ironclad Commitment to Israel’s Security Act,” which would require notifications to Congress before arms transfers to Israel could be paused, and offer Congress the opportunity to vote to block such moves.

McCaul told reporters last week that he was hoping that the bill would be a bipartisan effort that could become law and that he was aiming to pick up the support of his Democratic counterpart, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY).

But Meeks, along with 12 other Democrats, ultimately opposed the bill at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. Meeks and other Democrats sought to expand the bill to apply to any halts on arms sales globally — referencing former President Donald Trump’s halt on arms transfers to Ukraine — an effort that the committee rejected along party lines.

Meeks described the bill as “a politicized attack on the Biden administration,” and that changes to arms oversight “shouldn’t be limited to one country, it should be global in scope and nature.” He said that Israeli officials have told him they want to see a bipartisan effort and it was his “hope to work to that point,” offering an amendment to broaden the bill.

McCaul responded that he “appreciate[d] the desire to expand the scope,” but argued that the reason for the legislation was Biden’s recent moves, and that the legislation should therefore respond to those decisions.

Nine Democrats — Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV), Susan Wild (D-PA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Colin Allred (D-TX), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) — ultimately voted for the bill. The bill was approved by the committee.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) did not vote but is a co-sponsor of the bill and expressed his support for it during Wednesday’s meeting.

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