Demonstrators with posters calling for no funding for Israel.

Demonstrators calling for no funding for Israel in the conflict in Gaza are seen outside the U.S. Capitol before the House passed the foreign aid package on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Historic Number of Democratic Reps Vote Against Unconditional Aid to Israel

"Most Americans do not want our government to write a blank check to further Prime Minister Netanyahu's war in Gaza," a group of nearly 20 of the 37 no-voting lawmakers said.

Nearly 40 House Democrats voted against a measure to send around $26 billion more to Israel as it continues its war on Gaza that human rights experts have deemed a genocide.

While the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act passed the Republican-led House by a vote of 366-58, party insiders said it was significant that such a large number of Democrats had opposed it, with more centrist lawmakers joining progressives who have called for a cease-fire since October.

"Despite the weapons aid package passing, this is the largest number of Democratic lawmakers to vote against unrestricted weapons aid for Israel in recent memory," senior Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid observed on social media.

"If Congress votes to continue to supply offensive military aid, we make ourselves complicit in this tragedy."

Human rights lawyer, lobbyist, and former Democratic National Committee committeewoman Yasmine Taeb posted that it was "incredibly significant that 37 Democrats voted NO and rejected AIPAC's role and influence in the party."

Senior Democrats who opposed the funding included Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.)

The bill earmarks around $4 billion for Israel's missile defense systems and more than $9 billion for humanitarian aid to Gaza, according toThe Associated Press. However, while lawmakers approved of individual expenditures, they balked at giving more unconditional military aid to the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"U.S. law demands that we withhold weapons to anyone who frustrates the delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid, and President Biden's own recent National Security Memorandum requires countries that use U.S.-provided weapons to adhere to U.S. and international law regarding the protection of civilians," McGovern said in a statement explaining his vote. "To date, Netanyahu has failed to comply. It's time for President Biden to use our leverage to demand change."

Nearly 20 Democratic representatives released a joint statement explaining their vote. They were McGovern, Doggett, Watson Coleman, Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), and Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii).

"This is a moment of great consequence—the world is watching," the lawmakers wrote. "Today is, in many ways, Congress' first official vote where we can weigh in on the direction of this war. If Congress votes to continue to supply offensive military aid, we make ourselves complicit in this tragedy."

The lawmakers clarified that their no votes were specifically "votes against supplying more offensive weapons that could result in more killings of civilians in Rafah and elsewhere."

While they acknowledged that Israel had a right to defend itself, they argued that its greatest security would come from a cease-fire that enabled the release of hostages, humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, and peace negotiations to begin in earnest.

"Most Americans do not want our government to write a blank check to further Prime Minister Netanyahu's war in Gaza," they concluded. "The United States needs to help Israel find a path to win the peace."

Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who also voted no, said that he "could not in good conscience vote for more offensive weapons to be given to Israel to be used in Gaza without any conditions attached."

Pocan further called the "devastation inflicted upon innocent civilians in Gaza" "unjustifiable" and argued that "further arming Netanyahu and his extreme coalition could only lead us to a wider conflict in the Middle East."

In a speech on the House floor, Lee also criticized the bill for failing to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides the bulk of aid to the Gaza Strip. The U.S. paused funds for the agency following Israeli allegations that 12 of its employees participated in Hamas' October 7 attack, but other nations have since restored funding as the veracity of these allegations has been called into question.

"This is a grave abdication of U.S. humanitarian obligations," Lee said. "It is simply nonsensical to provide badly needed humanitarian assistance while simultaneously funding weapons that will be used to make the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worse."

She added, "The United States taxpayers should not be funding unconditional military weapons to a conflict that has created a catastrophic humanitarian disaster."

The bill sending funds to Israel was only one of several measures passed on Saturday as part of a $95 billion foreign spending package that will also provide a long-delayed approximately $61 billion for Ukraine in its war with Russia and around $8 billion to counter China in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Among the bills passed Saturday was one banning popular social media app TikTok in the U.S. if the Chinese company that owns it refuses to sell, theAP reported further.

The package will now go to the U.S. Senate, which could pass it as early as Tuesday. President Joe Biden has promised to sign the measures as soon as he receives them.

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