Progressives press leading Democrats for Israel arms deal, police
WASHINGTON – An increasingly vocal progressive wing is putting more pressure on Democratic leaders on burning issues, including U.S. military aid to Israel, funding for Capitol Hill security and law enforcement practices.
Democrats will need to stand united to push President Biden’s agenda through their weak majorities in Congress, including billions of dollars in proposed infrastructure and education spending. But after broadly supporting the party early in the administration, the Progressives asserted themselves, spurred on by the fighting between Israel and Hamas and the continued national debate over race and the police. It creates headaches for other Democrats, but also shows the limits of their power.
A central point of contention is Israel, with progressives denouncing the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza for their toll on Palestinian civilians. Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) Tries to force the vote on a resolution to end a $ 735 million arms sale to Israel, wondering if US military aid is helping to keep the peace in the region where the conflict was fueled.
“At a time when US-made bombs are devastating Gaza and killing women and children, we cannot just pass up another huge arms sale without even a debate in Congress,” Sanders said. .
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How do you think the relationship between progressives and centrists will develop under the Biden administration? Join the conversation below.
Republicans and other Democrats have broadly supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, saying Israel has the right to defend itself. President Biden played down party divisions on Friday and said he remained a staunch supporter of Israel.
“There is no change in my commitment, commitment to Israel’s security, period,” President Biden told reporters on Friday when asked about a possible change among Democrats. “I think, you know, my party still supports Israel. Until the region says unequivocally that it recognizes Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace, ”he said.
In a call with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Mr. Biden took a firm tone in pushing for de-escalation, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The president also warned his counterpart that pressure from the international community and Democrats in Congress risked politicizing the US-Israel relationship, which has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington.
Mr. Sanders’ efforts to stop the arms sale are unlikely to pass Congress. However, it could force some Democrats to take an uncomfortable vote, with Republicans accusing the party of turning its back on Israel, following the lead of its liberal wing.
A spokesperson for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) did not respond to a request for comment. He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Called for a ceasefire earlier this week, but also reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself. On Thursday, Israel and the militant group Hamas announced a ceasefire after 11 days of fighting.
An aide to Mr Sanders said this team was confident he would be able to use Senate privilege to force a vote on the resolution at some point, but since it had never been done before, they were still determining the procedure.
The Arms Export Control Act allows Congress to block an arms sale provided for by a joint resolution of disapproval, with such measures automatically giving rise to a vote in the Senate. It only takes a simple majority to pass a disapproval resolution, although it would take a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override a presidential veto.
On the House side, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and others introduced a similar resolution to stop the arms sale. However, unlike in the Senate where a member can force a vote, the Democratic leadership in the House can prevent the bill from being introduced.
Asked about the arms deal on Thursday, Pelosi said: “I support the arms sale, but I appreciate the informed debate our members are having on the subject.”
Progressives also challenged party leaders on another high-profile issue, nearly derailing a Democratic Capitol Security bill on Thursday.
Two hours before the vote, leaders discovered that six progressive lawmakers were planning to issue a statement opposing legislation on increasing police funding and what they saw as the lack of attention to radicalization and white supremacy. Their objections could have scuttled the bill in the House, where Democrats have a narrow 219-211 majority.
Party leaders then asked some of the objectors to vote “present” rather than “no,” according to a person familiar with the matter, and the bill squeaked, 213-212, with three Democrats voting no and three voting. present.
“We cannot support this increased funding as many of our communities continue to experience police brutality while walking the streets,” said representatives Cori Bush (D., Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn. ) And Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), In a joint statement explaining their ‘no’.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Tlaib and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., NY) voted “present”.
A spokesperson for Ms Pelosi did not respond to a request for comment.
Progressives have said they are mostly happy with the Biden administration’s approach to domestic agendas, but say Democratic leaders have not listened to them on foreign policy.
“There has been at least one conversation about domestic policy that is doable, but I don’t feel the same openness in foreign policy, and it’s a disappointment,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said of the rapid response of the Biden administration to the conflict. between Israel and Hamas.
A White House official said the president strives to work with people of diverse views, citing efforts to reach progressives during the campaign and in the administration. The official also said progressives had supported a number of initiatives, including the Covid-19 relief bill, the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and the president’s call to relinquish intellectual property rights. on Covid-19 vaccines.
The legislative effort to overhaul policing practices has also spurred progressives to act. Some of the same House progressives who opposed Capitol Hill security legislation sent a letter to leaders of Congress demanding that the final bill include a provision that would make it easier to prosecute individual police officers, a move that Republicans say would be a non-starter. Politico reported the letter earlier.
A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers have negotiated police legislation, but they remain divided over the prosecution and liability of individual police officers.
Many Democrats want the legislation to strike down qualified immunity and allow civilians to recover damages from officers if their constitutional rights are found to have been violated by police. Republicans say it would make recruiting police more difficult and hamper their ability to act as needed while on duty.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the GOP’s chief negotiator, has proposed making it easier to prosecute police departments rather than individuals. Democrats involved in the negotiations did not commit to it.
The letter from the Progressives does not say they would oppose the bill if it did not address qualified immunity and if enough Republicans join the Democrats, the party’s left flank may not be needed to pass the legislation.
—Catherine Lucey and Sabrina Siddiqui contributed to this article.
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8