Politics

Sanders bid for report on human rights in Israel-Hamas war fails in Senate

The Senate tabled a resolution from Bernie Sanders that would have required the State Department to report on whether Israel has violated human rights in its ongoing war with Hamas, revealing the ongoing division between various blocs of the Democratic Party.

The vote to table the resolution, called under the Foreign Assistance Act and requiring a simple majority for passage, passed 72-11. Democrats sided with the chamber’s Republicans in defeating the resolution amid a conflict that’s killed more than 23,000 people in Gaza, by recent estimates.

“If you believe that the [bombing] campaign has been indiscriminate, as I do, then we have a responsibility to ask this question,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said on the floor last week. “If you believe Israel has done nothing wrong, then this information should support that belief.”

Only after that report landed — or if the State Department failed to meet the 30-day deadline to deliver it — would the U.S. be able to freeze or alter aid to Israel.

The vote on the privileged resolution occurred as the Washington area deals with winter weather that prevented many lawmakers from returning to the Hill. Sanders himself was delayed in returning Tuesday afternoon.

Sanders said the provision of the law has never been invoked since its adoption in 1976.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the resolution as an attempt at “tying the hands of a close ally locked in a necessary battle against savage terrorists” and a gift to “left-wing, anti-Israel activists” in remarks on the Senate floor.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a GOP foreign policy hawk, slammed the resolution as an effort that would “empower the terrorist” and “maybe the most tone deaf thing in the history of the Senate.”

“To the left, what are you thinking?” he asked on the floor. “A ceasefire with Hamas only allows Hamas to regroup.”

But the defeat of the resolution wasn’t due to Republicans alone. In a statement, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said that while he is “deeply concerned” about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how Israel is conducting its campaign, he would not support the Sanders effort.

“I will continue raising these issues directly with Israeli officials and the Biden administration,” Coons said in a statement. “I do not, however, believe that risking the suspension of all U.S. assistance or publicly rebuking Israel in a way that could embolden its enemies will address these concerns, nor will it improve the humanitarian situation.”