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Jake Sullivan, White House move to grow Democratic support in face of Israel bill

White House, Democratic leaders pressure members on Israel bill

News: Top White House officials are privately working to shore up Democratic support as House Republicans push a bill denouncing President Joe Biden over withholding some weapons from Israel.

It’s all part of a broader effort to limit Democratic defections on the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, which is set to come to the House floor Thursday. The GOP-drafted legislation calls on the Biden administration to “utilize all congressionally appropriated funds for security assistance for Israel as Congress intended.”

This is in response to Biden’s announcement that the United States would stop the delivery of 3,500 heavy aerial bombs while Israeli forces press their offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Republicans argue that Biden shouldn’t interfere with Israel’s campaign to defeat Hamas, despite heavy Palestinian civilian casualties. The legislation condemns the Biden administration’s decision to pause the delivery of the large-scale bombs to Israel.

House Democratic leaders are whipping against the legislation, arguing that it “infringes” upon Biden’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy threatening a Biden veto. It uses the same language in criticizing the measure as Democratic leaders, arguing it would “undermine the President’s ability to execute an effective foreign policy.”

Perhaps most importantly, the White House announced a weapons package for Israel worth more than $1 billion. It includes tank and mortar ammunition, as well as utility vehicles. The Wall Street Journal first reported the move. Inside the Democratic caucus, this was seen as giving cover for some pro-Israel Democrats to vote against the GOP bill.

Behind the scenes, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer and various NSC officials are calling House Democrats, urging them to vote no. The State Department is expected to make calls as well, according to sources familiar with the matter. We’ve seen similar lobbying efforts earlier this year on various other national security measures.

The concerted blitz from party leaders and the White House seems to be working. Democratic leadership aides predicted roughly a dozen rank-and-file Democrats would vote for the measure. Earlier in the week, senior Democrats worried they’d lose dozens of members on this vote, a major rebuke of Biden’s handling of the Gaza crisis.

Progressives are already upset with Biden over his support for Israel despite more than 30,000 Palestinians killed in the conflict, which began following the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas.

Yet none of this is going to stop Republicans from moving forward, according to Speaker Mike Johnson, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and other top Republicans.

“I think it’s important for us to express again the will of Congress on the matter, so I don’t think we’ll be changing what we do on the legislation,” Johnson said.

More from Johnson in response to the White House veto threat:

Here’s Scalise:

Senior House Democrats counter that the GOP measure — a companion version has been introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — is all about politics. Republican leaders are seeking to drive a wedge between Democrats, not help Israel, they contend.

“That vote has nothing to do [with] policy,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“It’s what I expected… [Biden] made it very clear that he was going to need to make sure that Israel has the right to defend itself,” Smith added.

“There’s major problems in this resolution,” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), who is strongly pro-Israel. “It goes beyond this particular conflict, there’s all sorts of different precedent we would set for the future. I’m also aware this thing is dead [in the Senate].”

Sneak Peek: House Republicans will meet today at the Capitol Hill Club for a political conference meeting. GOP leaders plan to discuss how backing Israel is a uniting issue for House Republicans while it continues to divide Democrats.

News: Scalise will announce in conference today that he’ll match up to $1 million in member donations to the NRCC. It’s the third cycle in a row Scalise has made the offer to House Republicans.

This is well beyond what’s expected of Scalise as majority leader. And it helps rank-and-file lawmakers keep more money in their pockets while also keeping the NRCC flush.

— John Bresnahan, Mica Soellner and Jake Sherman

 

Correction: We initially said the Israel bill would be on the House floor Wednesday. The bill will come to the floor Thursday. We regret the error.

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