42 House Democrats join Republicans in support of ICC sanctions

The White House had strenuously opposed the bid for sanctions, and bipartisan talks in the House about a response to the ICC’s moves against Israel fell apart

Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

United States Capitol building

Forty-two House Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of a bill placing sanctions on the International Criminal Court over its pursuit of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders.

The White House strenuously opposed the bill in the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote and said it does not support sanctioning the ICC. The vote became the latest in a growing string of votes in which mostly moderate, pro-Israel Democrats have voted with Republicans on controversial legislation related to Israel and antisemitism, which Democrats have described as a deliberate GOP strategy to divide them.

Democrats who voted for the bill include Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who are running for the Senate. Republican Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) voted present.

The Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), had no Democratic cosponsors, despite some efforts to build bipartisan consensus and negotiate legislation that might be able to pass both chambers of Congress and be approved into law.

The administration, which has supported ICC efforts to investigate and prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin, had said that the Republicans’ bill could impose sanctions on individuals “who provide even limited, targeted support to the court in a range of aspects of [the ICC’s] work.”

Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the House floor yesterday that he and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the committee chair, had worked on a bipartisan solution but were unable to close a deal. 

He further warned that sanctions could provoke the ICC to go after Israel harder, and that the bill would force the U.S. to sanction close allies that fund the court, their leaders and lawmakers and U.S. companies that provide services to the court.

McCaul said that he and Meeks had attempted to work “in good faith” toward a bipartisan bill, and that the White House had “initially… supported” the approach, but blamed its decision to reject sanctions for the talks’ failure.

“We need to act quickly, because this case is already advancing much faster than expected. Even the ICC’s own staff did not know the warrant applications would be going ahead at this pace, McCaul said. “That is why we are advancing this bill straight to the floor.”

It’s not clear yet whether bipartisan Senate talks will meet the same fate as those in the House.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been working together on a way forward on a more targeted sanctions package that could pass both chambers. 

Cardin told Jewish Insider yesterday that he does not support the House bill, calling it “deeply disappointing to see House Republicans push a divisive partisan bill on the ICC Prosecutor’s application for warrants rather than pursuing a sensible, bipartisan approach. Defending Israel from this flawed and biased prosecution deserves the same united support we share for the entire U.S.-Israel relationship.”

He told Politico that the House vote would make it “more difficult” to reach a bipartisan agreement on a response.

Graham told JI he was amenable to altering the House legislation in order to get the bill across the finish line in a bipartisan fashion.

“If there’s a way to change the House bill that makes sense, count me in,” Graham said when asked about Cardin’s concerns. “I’m for the House bill but if it would get us some votes, I’m open minded [to making changes].”

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