House passes Republican-backed bill designed to pressure Biden on delivering weapons to Israel

 The Republican-led House passed a bill Thursday that would restrict the president’s ability to withhold weapons transfers to Israel in a vote that drew attention to the divided Democratic caucus on the war in Gaza.

The bill passed the House 224-187. Sixteen Democrats voted for it, including Thomas Suozzi of New York, Jared Moskowitz of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. Only three Republicans opposed it.

The vote was largely symbolic — the bill is not expected to be taken up on the other side of the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated that it is dead on arrival, saying the measure is “not going anywhere.”

Passage of the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, which would prevent federal funds from being used to withhold defense services or weapons to Israel, comes shortly after the White House halted a shipment of weapons to the U.S. ally.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., applauded the bill’s passage while slamming the Biden administration’s withholding certain weapons from Israel, including 2,000-pound bombs and 500-pound bombs.

“The Biden Administration’s decision to withhold weapons is catastrophic and goes directly against the will of Congress,” Johnson said in a statement.

He added that passing the act sends “a clear message of solidarity and support to Israel” and demanded “the urgent delivery of defense weapons to our most important ally in the Middle East.”

Netanyahu says Israel is moving forward with Rafah operation

President Joe Biden said in an interview with CNN last week that the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons if its military invades Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. He said in the interview that Israel has used the 2,000-pound bombs to kill Palestinian civilians.

The White House emphasized its opposition to the House GOP bill Tuesday, arguing in a statement that it would “undermine the President’s ability to execute an effective foreign policy.” The statement also said Biden would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

After the vote, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called the bill a “deliberate distortion” of Biden’s policy, saying that the legislation was “intended to score political points, not help Israel.”

“President Biden will take a back seat to no one on his support for Israel and will ensure that Israel has everything it needs to defeat Hamas,” Watson said in a statement. “President Biden is also strongly on the record for the protection of innocent civilians.”

Outside of the Capitol, a group of about 20 pro-Palestinian congressional staffers demonstrated before the House vote, calling on Biden and Congress to “immediately end U.S. support for Israel’s assault on the civilians of Gaza,” said Samantha Elghanayan, a staffer for Rep. Ro Khanna, told NBC News.

Protests by congressional staffers are relatively rare, and Elghanayan noted that she was protesting on her personal time, not as a part of her job.

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., called for the staffers to be fired.

“They have no business taking taxpayer money, which is what they’re doing when they come during work hours to protest, and wasting that taxpayer money to voice their opinion that, frankly, nobody asked them for,” he said.