House votes to sanction International Criminal Court over Israel probe

Washington — The House passed a Republican-backed bill that would punish the International Criminal Court over the decision to seek the arrests of top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The bill passed the House in a vote of 247 to 155. Forty-two Democrats joined 205 Republicans to vote in favor of it, further exposing Democratic divisions over the war in Gaza. Two Republicans voted present. 

“The ICC has to be punished for this action,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said Tuesday. “We cannot allow this to stand.” 

The legislation, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and is cosponsored by more than 70 Republicans, would sanction those involved in “any effort to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any protected person of the United States and its allies.” The sanctions include revoking U.S. visas held by ICC officials, blocking their entry into the U.S. and preventing them from property transactions. 

Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said members of his party still support Israel, despite their opposition to the measure. 

“The relationship that the U.S. has with Israel is strong,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to be a strong ally of Israel.” 

The effort to punish the ICC was initially expected to be bipartisan after Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage when the court’s top prosecutor applied for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over alleged war crimes in Gaza. The prosecutor is also seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leaders. 

But the White House, after criticizing the ICC, said it would not support the measure. In a statement Monday, the White House said it “strongly opposes” the legislation, arguing that it was too broad. 

“This legislation could require sanctions against court staff, judges, witnesses, and U.S. allies and partners who provide even limited, targeted support to the court in a range of aspects of its work,” the White House said, though it stopped short of threatening a veto if the measure reaches the president’s desk. 

House Democrats made similar arguments Tuesday during floor debate on the bill. 

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, said the measure is “counterproductive” to U.S. interests and undermines its leadership abroad. 

“Sanction of the court and all those who support it will backfire badly on us,” Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. 

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the ICC’s actions against Israel “have cheapened the court’s reputation” by putting “politics over justice.” 

“Today, it’s Israel,” he said. “Tomorrow it could be the United States and we must sanction those who deliberately abuse their power for political gain.” 

The measure is likely to be ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, said his party is still willing to engage with Republicans to find a bipartisan solution to “a runaway ICC” that does not endanger U.S. diplomacy with its allies who are members of the judicial body. 

Kristin Brown contributed reporting. 

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