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House approves bill hitting International Criminal Court for Israel warrants

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The House has passed legislation aimed at sanctioning the International Criminal Court for pursuing arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials in his government.

The vote was 247-155, with 42 Democrats supporting the bill and 2 Republicans voting present. It amounts to a congressional rebuke to the court as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues without a clear end in sight.

“The International Criminal Court has overstepped its authority and set a dangerous precedent,” House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the floor. “The case against Israel is baseless.”

The measure is unlikely to become law. The Biden administration said in a statement that it “strongly opposes” the bill and believes “there are more effective ways to defend Israel” but did not expressly threaten a veto.

Several Democrats ultimately supported the legislation even as they expressed concern with its drafting and questioned whether it had any chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I would have preferred that the Republicans worked with us more closely to make it bipartisan, but this is just the first step in the process,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). But, she added, “the ICC certainly needs to be held accountable. It is outrageous and egregious.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke against the legislation in the party’s closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday morning. He said in a brief interview that the bill was “dangerous stuff” because it could lead to sanctions on the leaders of countries allied with the United States.

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said House and Senate lawmakers had been working on a bipartisan effort to push back on the ICC and that the legislation passed by the House would hurt that push.

“Obviously it’s gonna be much more challenging now for us to reach a bipartisan agreement,” he told POLITICO in a brief interview.