seeking sanctions

House lawmakers pushing to sanction ICC over potential Israel arrest warrants

Rep. Elise Stefanik is calling on the lower chamber to pass her bill imposing sanctions on ICC officials and associates working to investigate or arrest Americans or U.S. allies


Elise Stefanik in the Knesset on May 19th, 2024

The House has begun working to advance legislation sanctioning the International Criminal Court over its decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while Republicans in the Senate are searching for Democrats to partner up on a similar effort. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the No. 3 House Republican, is calling on the lower chamber to pass her bill imposing sanctions on ICC officials and associates working to investigate or arrest Americans or U.S. allies. Stefanik introduced the bill with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) last month as concerns grew over the impending warrants, and a source familiar with the matter told Jewish Insider a vote on the legislation could come as soon as this week. 

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) originally introduced the legislation in the upper chamber back in February, but it has no Democratic cosponsors and faces a difficult path to passage in the Democratically controlled Senate. 

Senate Republicans largely want to see some type of action in response to the ICC’s decision, whether it be from President Joe Biden or Congress. While most Senate Democrats have been quick to follow Biden’s lead and condemn the ICC, they haven’t said they back sanctions. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanded that Biden “commit to imposing significant costs” on the ICC “and its agents if it pursues” these “shameful and baseless charges against Israel.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also harshly criticized the Court, vowing to “work with President Biden and members on all sides to keep support for Israel strong and unwavering.” Still, he did not voice his support for imposing sanctions or other moves to punish the Court. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told JI that they are collecting signatures for a bipartisan statement denouncing ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan and the Court. Cardin, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had not yet commented on the developments because he wanted to release something bipartisan instead.

Graham added that he’s hopeful he can extend the effort beyond the statement, complimenting the Biden administration on its firm condemnation of the ICC but calling the words insufficient. 

“The [president’s] statement was good but words without deeds go nowhere. It’s time to put on the table [former President Donald] Trump’s executive order. I want to turn that into legislation,” Graham said. “I think you will find hopefully bipartisan support to sanction the ICC through Congress.”

The South Carolina senator noted that he was one of a number of lawmakers who spoke to Khan and other ICC officials in recent weeks, and said he and his colleagues were given the false impression that the Court was holding off on the warrants until after a planned visit to Israel for discussions with the war cabinet. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Senate Democrat who was also briefed by the ICC in recent weeks said they were similarly surprised when the warrants were announced on Sunday. Asked about Graham’s characterization of events, the Democrat said that it was “correct … that we as senators were misled about the status of the warrants.”

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