In its first legislative act under newly elevated Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a symbolic resolution voicing support for Israel in its war against Hamas.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt it was important to be seen offering their support for Israel in its campaign against Hamas, which the U.S. and European Union have designated as a terrorist organization.
The resolution was adopted, 412-10, with nine Democrats and one Republican opposed. Six Democrats voted present.
“This is one of the darkest moments in the history of the state of Israel,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the sponsor of the resolution, said in floor remarks that detailed some of the atrocities Hamas committed against Israeli civilians. “For God’s sakes, what is going on in the world today? …This is sheer terror. It’s evil and it cannot stand in this world.”
The resolution, passed under suspension of the rules, reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense; recommitted the U.S. to Israel’s security, including through emergency weapons resupply and intelligence sharing; urged all nations to unequivocally condemn the Hamas terrorist attack, which resulted in the deaths of some 1,400 people in the Jewish state; and demanded Hamas immediately release roughly 220 hostages.
It also condemned Iran’s support for regional proxy groups like Hamas and urged the full enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
In the more than three weeks that House Republicans couldn’t agree on a speaker, Israel experienced the deadliest single military attack in its 75-year-history on Oct. 7 and responded with massive and ongoing retaliatory airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Roughly 1.4 million of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million have fled their homes, according to The Associated Press.
At the same time, the Biden administration has been in overdrive, using shuttle diplomacy and significant military regional deployments to keep the Israel-Hamas war from spreading to other parts of the Middle East. The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry says 6,500 people have been killed in Gaza. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank. The United Nations, other international organizations, and news outlets are unable to independently verify death tolls in the war.
All the while, the House had sidelined itself as well as the Senate from passing legislation that could have an impact on the worsening security crisis.
“All who cherish life, value democracy, and seek justice must resolutely condemn Hamas, condemn its heinous attack on Oct. 7, and condemn its war with Israel,” Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said in floor remarks. “Israel has the right, Israel has the responsibility to defend itself against Hamas, to protect its citizens, to secure its borders, and to rescue its hostages, no matter how long it takes.”
The bipartisan measure from McCaul and House Foreign Affairs ranking member Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., was introduced on Wednesday. It represents an initial step in lawmakers’ intention to become more involved on the matter in the days and weeks ahead. That could include taking up in whole or in parts of President Joe Biden’s $106 billion emergency national security spending request.
The White House package, which was released last Friday, contains $14.3 billion for Israel, including nearly $11 billion for the Pentagon to resupply air and missile defense weapons, industrial base investments, and to replenish the U.S. military’s own weapons stocks that are transferred to Israel. It further includes $3.5 billion for the State Department to make Foreign Military Financing grants to Israel for the purchase of U.S. arms, $100 million to support heightened security at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem as well as other regional embassies, and $50 million for crisis response and relocation support for affected embassies.