House declares solidarity with Israel in first bill under new Speaker

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel, pledging to provide its government with all the security assistance it needs to fight and win the war with Hamas.

The vote, 412 to 10, was the first bill to be considered under Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana. He was elected to the post Wednesday after three tumultuous weeks in which GOP members battled to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after his ouster.

Nine Democrats and one Republican opposed the resolution. Six Democrats were present to vote, although five of them had previously co-sponsored the resolution.

The vote reflected the broad, bipartisan support lawmakers have expressed for Israel’s efforts to oust Hamas from the Gaza Strip, which it took control of in 2007 in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks that killed more than 1,400 civilians and soldiers.

But it also reflected the defiance of a small but determined minority of House Democrats who have called for a cease-fire, arguing that Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza has caused the deaths of too many Palestinians. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 6,500 people have been killed in Israeli strikes, a figure that could not be independently confirmed.

The resolution affirms Israel’s right to defend itself, condemns Hamas and calls for the release of hostages it has captured. It was written by Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas and Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the Republican chairman and the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is similar to a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel that the Senate unanimously passed last week.

“It condemns in the strongest terms the crimes of Hamas and reiterates Israel’s right to defend itself, along with America’s unwavering support for the State of Israel,” Mr. McCaul in the House of Representatives, arguing that the resolution “will send a clear message around the world that terrorists and their sponsors will be held accountable.”

“This Congress will have Israel’s back as it degrades and eliminates the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas,” Mr. Meeks said on the floor. “We will not waver, we will not give up, we will stand by our ally Israel.”

Although both the House of Representatives and the Senate have pledged in resolutions to provide Israel with military, intelligence, diplomatic and other forms of assistance, they do not finance weapons and other forms of aid. That fight is yet to come as lawmakers dissect President Biden’s request for $105 billion in emergency funds to address national security issues, including the wars in Israel and Ukraine, the growing threat China poses to Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region, and the security of the U.S.-Mexico border.

House lawmakers are taking a step back because of the speaker drama, which has paralyzed the chamber for most of this month. No legislation could be moved as Republicans battled through deep rifts in the conference, finally choosing a new speaker after three other candidates failed.

Several Republicans have called for separating the $14.3 billion in security aid that Mr. Biden has requested for Israel from the rest of the package, arguing that the urgency of Israel’s war and the bipartisan interest in helping the Jewish state should not be stymied by the partisan divide over aid. Ukraine. Last month, more than half of House Republicans voted against a bill to send $300 million in weapons and training to Ukrainian fighters.

Many Republicans also argued that the package’s border security provisions needed to be more extensive. Some GOP lawmakers also raised objections to the humanitarian aid Mr. Biden’s package would send to Palestinian civilians, expressing concern that it would end up in the hands of Hamas.

Those simmering partisan divisions were largely sidelined during the debate over the Israel resolution, which was hailed by both Republicans and Democrats as an important message of united support for Israel.

But one Republican accused lawmakers who voted against the resolution of cowardice and complicity in jeopardizing Israel’s security.

“They are not worthy to serve on this body,” said Representative Mike Lawler, Republican of New York. “If you cannot stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, a beacon of democracy, hope and freedom, you do not belong in this body – those members should resign in disgrace.”

One of the resolution’s opponents, Representative Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, defended her vote as a protest against what she said was unfairness.

“I voted against this resolution because it is a deeply incomplete and biased account of what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and what has been happening for decades,” Ms. Tlaib said in a statement. “This resolution rightly mourns the thousands of Israeli civilians killed and wounded in the horrific attacks, but does not explicitly mourn the thousands of Palestinian civilians, including over 2,000 childrenkilled and wounded in the collective punishment of Palestine.”

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