Cardin criticism

Cardin ‘disappointed’ by House Republicans’ ICC sanctions bill

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said he’s going to keep pursuing a bipartisan sanctions effort

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

(L-R) Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Committee chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and ranking member Sen. James Risch (R-ID) arrive for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Jack Lew, President Joe Biden's nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, on Capitol Hill October 18, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who was working on bipartisan legislative efforts to respond to the International Criminal Court’s decision to pursue arrest warrants on Israeli officials, told Jewish Insider he opposes House Republicans’ efforts to pass an ICC sanctions bill on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed. I thought they were going to try and work on a bipartisan bill that would try to [bring Republicans and Democrats] together,” Cardin, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Jewish Insider on Monday. “They [the Republicans] will do their thing and we’ll try to see what we can do on our side.”

Cardin said in a subsequent statement to JI,“It is 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.”

After saying that they wanted to work with Congress on a bipartisan response, administration officials said last week they wouldn’t support the congressional push for sanctions on the international court.

The administration released earlier on Monday released a statement that it “strongly opposes” a House bill, scheduled for a vote this week, that would impose sanctions on the ICC.

“The Administration is deeply concerned about the ICC Prosecutor’s heedless rush to apply for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials,” the statement said. “At the same time, the Administration opposes the imposition of sanctions against the ICC, its personnel, its judges, or those who assist its work. There are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve U.S. positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the Administration stands ready to work with the Congress on those options.”

The statement warns that the legislation could require sanctions on individuals “who provide even limited, targeted support to the court in a range of aspects of its work.” The administration has sought to support the ICC’s work to investigate and prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The House bill is now likely to receive little Democratic support, although at least 19 House Democrats have publicly said they support sanctioning the court. The administration’s statement did not include an explicit veto threat.

Cardin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to push for some type of punitive action against the ICC over the warrants, though few Democrats are behind the campaign.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby have both said that while the administration does not support the warrants or equating Hamas leaders with Israeli leaders, they also oppose issuing sanctions in response. 

Editor’s note: Cardin said in a statement following the initial publication of this story that he was expressing disappointment with House Republicans’ legislation, not with the Biden administration’s opposition to sanctions.

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