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Dozens of Democrats join Republicans to support bill sanctioning ICC

The bill would sanction ICC officials and even their families, despite President Biden opposing the measure
US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, in 2021 (File photo/AFP)

The Republican-led US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a largely symbolic bill to sanction the International Criminal Court, in response to its prosecutor's call for arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

Republicans were joined by 42 Democras in passing the legislation by a vote of 247 to 155. The bill is not expected to become law because the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to hold a vote on it.

The Biden administration itself flip-flopped on imposing sanctions on the ICC after pushback from human rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers.

Earlier in May, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would welcome “working with” Congress on an ICC sanctions bill. Israel’s government welcomed the Biden administration’s suggestion that it would support sanctions. The ICC chief prosecutor called for arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant as well as a few Hamas officials.

But a week after Blinken’s testimony, the White House walked back the comments, saying it wouldn’t support ICC sanctions.

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Following the House of Representative’s vote, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reiterated US opposition to the move.

“We have made clear that while we oppose the decision taken by the prosecutor of the ICC, we don’t think it is appropriate, especially while there are ongoing investigations inside Israel looking at some of these very same questions, and we were willing to work with Congress on what a response might look like, but we don’t support sanctions,” Miller said.

Aipac endorsements

The bill looks to impose widespread sanctions and visa restrictions on individuals and judges linked to the ICC, including their family members.

Democratic lawmaker Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said the bill would have a “chilling effect” on the ICC.

Why the Biden administration decided not to sanction the ICC
Read More »

Despite the Bill’s slim prospects of becoming law, its passage is notable because 42 pro-Israel Democrats joined Republicans to pass it, in a rare show of defiance to President Biden.

Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona running for one of that state’s senate seats, voted for the bill. Gallego, who once billed himself as a progressive, has shifted to the right in recent years. He was endorsed by the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), during his 2022 reelection. Arizona is considered a swing state.

Democratic lawmaker Elissa Slotkinm, who is running for a senate seat in Michigan, also backed the bill. Aipac also endorsed Slotkin in 2022. Michigan is considered a swing state and has seen an outpouring of anger against Biden among its Arab and Muslim population over his administration’s support for Israel in its war on Gaza.

The fact that two lawmakers running in hotly contested statewide races for senate voted for the pro-Israel legislation in defiance of Biden suggests their primary concern may be to shore up their pro-Israel credentials ahead of a tight race.

Other prominent Democratic Congress lawmakers endorsed by Aipac in previous House races who voted for the bill include Bill Keating, Stephen Lynch, Lois Frankel, and Josh Gottheimer.

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