McCarthy: 'Sad Day' When Dems Reject Israel Amendment to Yemen Bill

April 5, 2019

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) ripped into Democrats on Thursday for rejecting a pro-Israel amendment to a resolution on the war in Yemen.

McCarthy and House Republicans, who lost the body's majority in 2018, called for the addition of pro-Israel language to H.J. Resolution 37. Both the House and Senate passed the original resolution without the language.

According to McCarthy, the question was whether to introduce language to "amend the bill and add language that it is in the national security interest of the United States to condemn and oppose the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) targeting Israel and all efforts to delegitimize Israel."

Late Thursday morning, the House of Representative voted 228-194 against the motion to commit with instructions, which would have added the language to the bill and required a new vote. One member voted present, and eight did not vote.

Speaking with reporters, McCarthy said it was a "sad day" when so many Democrats would oppose the measure.

"Today is a sad day," he said. "Today is a day that should not happen in this House. It should not happen in America. And I never thought, regardless of what disagreements I've had with the other side of the aisle, that they would come to this conclusion. That they would step to this moment."

He claimed Democrats lacked the courage to stand up to BDS supporters. "Every single Democrat but five voted against Israel and voted to allow the BDS movement to grow," he said.

The BDS movement is an anti-semitic campaign whose leaders have repeatedly denied Israel's right to exist.

The five Democrats to support the anti-BDS provision were Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.), Joe Cunningham (D., S.C.), Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.), Elaine Luria (D., Va.), and Jeff Van Drew (D., N.J.).

Reps. Justin Amash (R., Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) were the two Republicans to vote no.

In contrast, some Democrats claimed the vote against the motion to recommit stands independently of their support for Israel. In a statement Thursday, Rep. Brad Schneider (D., Ill.) claimed the timing of the BDS language was inappropriate. "It was not easy for me to vote against a measure condemning BDS," Schneider wrote. "[B]ut at this time, in these circumstances we have an immediate responsibility to help the people of Yemen.

Schneider claimed that Republicans were introducing Israel language into a Yemen bill as a wedge. He called McCarthy's push for the motion "a transparent effort to derail an important resolution striving to end the war in Yemen." He claimed opposition to BDS was not a matter appropriate for inclusion in a bill on the war in Yemen, which has killed some 16,000 civilians. (Schneider introduced an anti-BDS bill in March.)

The bill is House Resolution 37 "Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress." Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) introduced the resolution in January.

"While I agree with the sentiments expressed in the motion to recommit (MTR), I strenuously object to the Republicans’ cynical ploy of weaponizing support for Israel for partisan political gain," Schneider said. "Support for the U.S.-Israel relationship must remain bipartisan."

Leader McCarthy claimed the vote was indicative of a wider shift in the Democratic Party away from supporting Israel. "The comments that I've heard the months before, I thought that maybe it would have been isolated to just a few members," he said. The comment is an apparent reference to first-term Democrats like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.). They have found themselves in recurring anti-Israel and anti-semitism scandals of their own making.

"But today it was different," McCarthy said. "Today, the majority of the Democrats accepted what the other Democrats have been saying. That is not a day to be proud of. And it’s not a day and a vote that they should stand with."

The Yemen bill, sans pro-Israel proviso, already had Senate support  The Senate passed the bill in mid-March, with half a dozen Republicans joining Democrats in support. Had the anti-BDS motion passed, the bill would have required Senate revision to bring the two bodies' texts into compliance.

The final approved version now goes to President Donald Trump's desk for consideration. If he does not veto, the bill gives Trump thirty days to withdraw American forces from the conflict.