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  /  News   /  Senate GOP ratchets up calls for vote on ICC sanctions bill

Senate GOP ratchets up calls for vote on ICC sanctions bill

Republicans are increasing calls for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to put a House-passed bill on the floor that would sanction the International Criminal Court as it considers whether to grant an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The measure passed the House on Tuesday with 42 Democrats joining every Republican to vote in favor. Now, Senate Republicans are going on the attack to call for a vote in the upper chamber, which Democrats are highly unlikely to grant.

“Our members are very, very much wanting to go on offense on that,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. “So yes, we’d love to get that taken up over here.”

Despite the Democratic support the bill got on the House side, the road is likely closed off in the Senate.

The measure was initially intended to be bipartisan, with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, working with his Democratic counterparts in the House and Senate.

But the White House expressed late opposition to the proposed sanctions, which led most Democrats to oppose it. Democrats are also fractured on how to respond to the Israel-Hamas war and to the ICC, which the U.S. does not formally recognize.

A number of Senate Democrats were upset by the recommendation of the court’s top prosecutor that the ICC should charge both Hamas leaders for their role in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Netanyahu and his defense minister for their response to the attack, which has lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, Netanyahu’s handling of the situation in Gaza has upset many on the left who aren’t inclined to rush to his side. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have shown no hesitation in backing the Israeli leader. That has included a push for him to address a joint session in the coming weeks and calls for a floor vote on the ICC sanctions package. 

“It’s the right place to be,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “It’s the right position to have. I think it would send a strong message.”

Talk about a vote comes as Schumer has entered campaign mode and has moved ahead with votes he hopes can boost incumbents in red and purple states — not take up matters known to divide Democrats.

The chamber voted on the border bill Senate negotiators agreed on yearly this year, but was defeated swiftly by conservatives. Senators also voted on Wednesday on a proposal to codify the right to access contraceptives nationwide — which Republicans also voted down.

Schumer had also signaled plans to hold a vote to protect access to in vitro fertilization “very soon” — all of which Republicans charge is in the name of the November elections.

“He’s the guy that gets to determine what gets to the floor, and it seems like he wants us out of here more than he wants us here,” said Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican. “And when we’re here, it seems he is mostly interested in a summer of show votes rather than anything else.”

“We know that everything that he is doing is political and not really in the best interest of the country,” he continued. “But it’s in what he perceives to be in the best interest of his party. I’m just not sure he’s right about that.”

The House bill, if passed, would implement travel and financial sanctions on ICC officials. It would also grant the president the ability to nix the sanctions if the ICC halts efforts to arrest or investigate U.S. individuals or allies, among other things.

How the GOP intends to push for a vote in the coming weeks remains unclear. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a leader in the conference, told The Hill that the messaging plans is very much in flux.

“I am not sure what we’re going to expect, to be honest,” said Ernst, a member of GOP leadership, adding that there will be “more discussion to follow.” 

Other Senate Republicans, while supportive of a potential vote, are questioning whether this is the best use of the party’s time as they head into the teeth of the summer campaign season and are in solid shape in their quest to not only flip control of the chamber, but possibly win the White House back. 

While the GOP base widely supports Israel, kitchen table issues remain front and center for a party that has been beating that drum to much success in recent months and years. 

“We have so little time here. It’s like going on offense with 15 seconds left on the clock. We don’t have a lot of time,” one Senate GOP member said, pointing to the precious few days the chamber is in session before August. 

The Senate is in for only five more weeks before breaking for the August recess, with most of those weeks only featuring three days in session rather than the usual four. 

“We’ve got a target-rich environment, but some are really low-value targets,” the Senate Republican continued, laying out what the main arguments are for the party: “Failing economy, failing border, failing to let people pay their bills.” 

“You get into this mode this close to a campaign, folks hitting on anything other than those things that I know are tried and true poll-tested messages based on the way people feel, I think it’s a danger,” they said. “You could get some mileage, but it’s not the mileage that people out in voting country really care about on a sustained basis.”