House Democrats Vote Against Hamas Sanctions

Vote comes as Hamas rains rockets down on Israeli civilians

Palestinians attend a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
Palestinians attend a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City / Getty Images
May 18, 2021

House Democrats overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday afternoon against applying sanctions on Hamas, the Iranian-backed terror group that has fired thousands of missiles at Israel during the past two weeks amid a deepening regional conflict.

In a 217-209 vote, Democrats rejected a bid by House Republicans to hold a vote on Hamas sanctions legislation authored by Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.). The bill was supported by every House Democrat in the last Congress, but stalled this time around when Democratic members refused to allow the bill to be considered by the legislative body. Republicans wanted to pass the legislation to further express support for Israel as it fights the terror group.

As the conflict in Israel continues into its second week, many Democratic lawmakers on the party’s left flank have publicly criticized the Jewish state, with some describing its defensive operations as terrorist acts. Progressive lawmakers such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) have called for cutting U.S. military aid to Israel and sanctioning the country. They have not condemned Hamas’s strikes on the country or the terror group's use of civilian shields in the Gaza Strip.

"Hamas preaches the destruction of Israel and death to everything we hold dear in the United States. The recent attacks again show why we must cut off their financial support," Rep. Mast said. "But today House Democrats backtracked on their previous support for this bill, and in doing so sent a clear message to the world that they stand with Radical Islamic terrorists like Hamas instead of with our ally Israel."

The legislation was brought to the floor for a vote under a parliamentary procedure known as the "previous question," which is used to end debate on a topic and proceed to an immediate vote. The bill would apply sanctions on any foreign persons, agencies, and governments that assist Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, or their affiliates. Both terror groups are primarily armed and funded by the Iranian government.

"Today every member in the House will have a choice between siding with our ally or siding with a status quo that will only perpetuate the unrest," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), the chamber’s minority leader, said in a statement ahead of the vote. "Support for Israel should remain a proud, bipartisan, but most of all, clear policy principle in Congress. As our greatest ally in the Middle East faces the most intense siege in 7 years, the House should make it clear to the world that we stand united in support of Israel."