Republican Senator To Force Vote on Measure To Strip Qatar of Non-NATO Ally Status

Qatar maintains close ties to Hamas

Sen. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
April 10, 2024

Sen. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) will take to the Senate floor on Wednesday to seek unanimous consent on a landmark measure that would begin the process of stripping Qatar’s status as a non-NATO ally due to its close relations with the Hamas terror group, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

The measure, unveiled on Tuesday, signals mounting frustration with Qatar’s inability to secure a hostage deal between Hamas and Israel and is an unprecedented effort by lawmakers to downgrade diplomatic relations with a U.S. ally in the Middle East. The decision to invoke unanimous consent forces the Senate to immediately consider the legislation and hold a vote on it.

Budd’s legislation, which is backed by Sens. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) and Rick Scott (R., Fla.), would force the Biden administration to certify that Qatar is exerting "any and all" leverage it has over Hamas to secure the release of Israeli and American hostages. The administration would have to verify to Congress that Qatar "does not directly or indirectly support, financially or otherwise, acts of international terrorism or foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas."

If the administration cannot make this determination, President Joe Biden would have to immediately terminate Qatar’s status as a non-NATO ally, stripping the country of its elevated status with the U.S. armed forces and other members of the international defense pact.

"I do not introduce this bill to consider terminating Qatar’s Major Non-NATO Ally designation lightly. It is not where I started on this relationship, but it is a reflection of where we are today and the warnings that members of Congress have repeatedly given to Qatar about the liability of continuing to host Hamas," Budd said in a statement Tuesday when he unveiled the measure. "Qatar must immediately expel or agree to extradite to the United States any individuals determined to be members of Hamas, particularly the leaders of its political office, which bear responsibility for the heinous attacks on October 7."

Qatar has been in the spotlight since Hamas’s terror attack on Israel, with congressional Republicans repeatedly chastising the country for its long-standing relationship with Hamas. The Iran-backed terror group’s senior leadership lives in Qatar and the country maintains a financial relationship with the group.

As talks over a hostage deal stall, many have laid blame at Qatar’s doorstep. Critics like Budd say that Qatar is not living up to its commitments as a major non-NATO ally.

"Major Non-NATO Ally status is a privilege that countries like Qatar must continuously earn. Failure to take action against Hamas is beginning to look like tacit support for a foreign terrorist organization designated by the United States," the senator said. "This is not acceptable behavior for a Major Non-NATO ally. Securing the release of the hostages demands strength and moral clarity. We demand it of our own leaders, and we should require it from our major allies."

Update 12:21 p.m.: When Budd introduced his unanimous consent motion Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Chris Murphy (D, Conn.) quickly objected, putting the measure on temporary ice.

Murphy described Qatar in 2022 as America's "best partner in the region," a designation typically given to Israel.

Murphy also travelled to Qatar when it held the 2022 World Cup, and came under fire for boosting Doha at a time when it was facing intense criticism for mass human rights abuses. The Democratic senator referred to Qatar's foreign minister as "my friend" in a social media post at the time, sparking pushback from supporters and those concerned about the country's lackluster human rights record.

Budd said on the floor that he will continue his efforts to see the legislation passed, including working through the relevant committees to advance it back onto the Senate floor.