WASHINGTON (JTA) — In its first action under its new speaker, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly condemned the deadly invasion of Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7, which launched Israel’s current war against the terror group in Gaza.
“With the most cosponsors of any resolution ever, this measure sends a clear message across the globe: The U.S. stands with Israel,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said after the vote Wednesday, posting on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The resolution was approved 412-10, with another six members voting present, out of 435 congressional seats. A number of lawmakers were absent, and at least one seat remains empty pending a special election.
Rep. Summer Lee, who represents Squirrel Hill, was among the 10 lawmakers who voted against the resolution.
In addition to Lee, those voting against were Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican, and nine Democrats: Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Al Green of Texas, Andre Carson of Indiana and Delia Ramirez of Illinois. Most of the Democratic “no” votes were from the Squad, a group of progressive lawmakers.
McCaul, working with his Democratic counterpart on the committee, New York’s Gregory Meeks, garnered 425 co-sponsors for the resolution, which declares that the House of Representatives “stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists” and “stands ready to assist Israel with emergency resupply and other security, diplomatic, and intelligence support.” Among the co-sponsors, unusually, were party leaders, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic minority leader.
Meeks and McCaul, with the backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, first pressed for the resolution on Oct. 10, three days after Hamas’s invasion. Within a day they had garnered 390 co-sponsors, including progressives who have been harshly critical of Israel. But they were frustrated by the inability of Republicans to elect a speaker after a cadre of far-right lawmakers ousted Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who previously held the role. McCaul pledged to make the resolution the first thing the House passed under a new Speaker.
Mike Johnson, the Louisiana Republican who ended weeks of stalemate with his election as speaker just before the vote, said in his first remarks in the role that he was committed to Israel’s security.
“We have no better friend in the Middle East than the state of Israel,” he said. “Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. the special relationship between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad and Israel has a right to defend itself under the international rules of war against the brutal terror unleashed on its citizens by Hamas.”
Jeffries, who participated in the ceremonial passing of the gavel to Johnson, also expressed support for Israel in his remarks.
Johnson said he would work with President Joe Biden to pass emergency defense assistance for Israel. Biden has asked for $10.4 billion, which Republicans say they are amenable to; however, he has coupled it with a request for $60 billion in assistance for Ukraine as it continues to fend off Russia’s invasion, which is controversial among Republicans.
Five of the six co-sponsors who voted “present” were on the Democratic Party’s progressive left, which came under intense pressure from outside groups to refrain from backing a resolution that did not call for a ceasefire. They were Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Nydia Velázquez of New York, Greg Casar of Texas, and Chuy Garcia of Illinois. The sixth lawmaker voting “present” was Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat who did not co-sponsor the resolution.
Summer Lee, while condemning “the violence Hamas unleashed in Israel, particularly the horrific kidnapping and killing of over a thousand innocent civilians and children,” said in a prepared statement she could not support a resolution that “does not acknowledge the overwhelming loss of life and humanity of Palestinians which moves us further from — not closer to — a just and lasting peace. This is a critical mistake that falls short of what the world needs in this moment – which is why I voted ‘No.’”
Lee is one of five House representatives cosponsoring a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
“The only path to peace, the only path to saving more innocent Palestinian and Israeli children and hostages is de-escalation,” Lee said in her prepared statement. “The people of Gaza need food, water, electricity and now basic health care. Innocent Israeli and American hostages need to be released. We need a Ceasefire NOW.”
Democrats who voted in favor the bill strongly criticized their colleagues who rejected it.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said, “someone who votes against this I would think doesn’t have a soul,” Jewish Insider reported. Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said that members who were unwilling to vote for the bill “are not worthy of serving in this body” and should “resign in disgrace.”
Bhavini Patel, an Edgewood councilperson who will be challenging Lee for her 12th District seat in the Democratic primary, said she would have voted in favor of the bill and criticized Lee for voting against it.
“Since October 7th, the Congresswoman’s statements have equivocated Hamas’ murdering, raping, and kidnapping of grandparents, children and so many innocent civilians,” Patel said in a prepared statement. “She has failed to show support after this massive loss of life by not listening to her constituents and not showing up for two large public solidarity events in the community.
“Congresswoman Lee also posted reactionary comments blaming Israel for bombing a hospital, when video and intelligence later showed the misfired rocket came from an armed militant group in Gaza. I agree with President Biden and the White House; there are not two sides in this battle between Hamas and Israel. To say so is wrong and disgraceful.”
Lee did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
Hamas killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, in its raids, wounded thousands of others and abducted more than 200. Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry says that Israeli strikes have so far killed more than 5,000 Palestinians, including many children. How many of the Palestinian dead are terrorists and how many are civilians cannot currently be assessed. PJC