Palestinians walk through debris in Gaza

Palestinians evacuate following an Israeli airstrike on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on October 9, 2023.

(Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Senate Kills Sanders Resolution Requiring Biden to Report on Israeli Human Rights Conduct in Gaza

Lawmakers from both parties overwhelmingly thwarted an effort by the progressive Vermont senator to bring some accountability to how U.S.-supplied weapons are being used by Israeli forces.

The United States Senate on Tuesday evening voted overwhelmingly to table a resolution by progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders that would have required the Biden administration to promptly report on Israel's human rights practices during its war on Gaza, which is currently the subject of an International Criminal Court genocide case.

Sanders (I-Vt.)—who has drawn progressive ire by opposing a Gaza cease-fire—had attempted to force a floor vote on his privileged resolution, which is based on Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act. However, upper chamber lawmakers voted 72-11 to preemptively torpedo the measure.

The senators who voted against tabling the measure were: Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Sanders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "has to understand that he does not get a blank check from the United States Congress," said Warren. "We have a responsibility to stand up now and say that given how Netanyahu and his right-wing war Cabinet have prosecuted this war, we have serious questions that we are obligated to ask before we go further in our support."

Heinrich said on social media following the vote that "as we continue to stand by Israel's right to defend itself, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting innocent civilians."

"That means ensuring our weapons are used only in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law, and the law of armed conflict," he added.

The Foreign Assistance Act, passed during the Kennedy administration, empowers Congress to "request information on a particular country's human rights practices and to alter or terminate U.S. security assistance to that country in light of the information received."

Sanders' resolution would have forced the Biden administration to provide a report on Israeli rights violations within 30 days, after which time congressional lawmakers could consider suspending aid.

The U.S. has provided Israel with more than $150 billion in military aid since its founding in 1948—largely through the ethnic cleansing of Palestine's Arabs—and currently gives Israel $3.8 billion in annual armed assistance. President Joe Biden responded to the Hamas-led attacks of October 7 by requesting an additional $14.3 billion from Congress while also bypassing lawmakers to fast-track "emergency" armed aid to the key Middle East ally.

"Whether we like it or not, the United States is complicit in the nightmare that millions of Palestinians are now experiencing," Sanders said on the Senate floor prior to the vote.

"It should not be controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are used," he said earlier Tuesday. "We should all want this information. If you believe the war has been indiscriminate, as I do, then we must ask this question. If you believe Israel has done nothing wrong, then this information should support that belief."

Tuesday's vote came amid Israel's relentless bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, which has killed at least 24,285 Palestinians—most of them women, children, and elders—while wounding more than 61,100 others and leaving over 7,000 more missing since October 7. More than 85% of Gaza's population has been forcibly displaced, and doctors and United Nations officials said Tuesday that children are now starving to death in the besieged enclave.

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