High-Ranking Democrats Join House Republicans to Attack Biden’s Diplomatic Efforts

Jonathan Cohn
4 min readDec 3, 2023

Back in August, the Biden administration made significant progress in negotiations with Iran to secure the release of five Iranian-Americans detained in Iran. As part of the deal, the US would also release a to-be-determined number of Iranians held in detention in the US and several billion dollars currently held in South Korea as a result of US sanctions on Iran.

As we have seen in recent weeks, reuniting people with their families takes diplomatic effort.

The US House of Representatives, however, often hates to acknowledge that fact, with the latest demonstration of that a vote this week to undermine the aforementioned agreement. House Republicans accused Biden of unfreezing assets that would go to Hamas, ignoring the fact that the money has not even been released yet and that there are conditions requiring humanitarian uses.

During the debate around the bill, several Democrats underscored the importance of the agreement and how it not only will make progress to reuniting families but also reduce the Iranian government’s leverage:

“Iran, of course, as Hamas, is a murderous and corrupt regime. They’re not pleasant. And this isn’t easy,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during the floor debate. “But thanks to this agreement, five American families are now home again.”

He added, “And Iran has lost the leverage of holding these American hostages.”

Unfortunately, however, the US House has a robust hawkish majority, and the bill passed 307 to 119.

The only Republican to vote against it was Tom Massie (KY-04).

Democrats were split, with 90 voting in favor and 118 voting against. Shamefully, those voting in favor included Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Here are the 90 Democrats:

The House passed an amendment from Republican August Pfluger (TX-11) to eliminate the existing power of the President to waive sanctions (as the law states, such short-term waivers must come with a clear designation that doing so is in the national security interest of the US and a report to Congress).

It passed 231 to 198, with 12 Democrats defecting to vote for it and 1 Republican voting — Tom Massie — voting for it.

12 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: Don Davis (NC-01), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Jeff Jackson (NC-14), Greg Landsman (OH-01), Susie Lee (NV-03), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Mary Peltola (AK-AL), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), David Scott (GA-13), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Shri Thanedar (MI-13).

The House voted 241 to 181 for Republican Andy Ogles (TN-05)’s amendment to block the use of any federal funds to make any frozen funds or other assets available to Iran.

25 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it:

Democrat Jonathan Jackson (IL-01) offered an amendment to add a 5-year sunset provision to the bill. It failed 194 to 236.

188 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted for it, and 213 Republicans and 23 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 23 Democrats who voted no:

The House also passed an amendment from Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) that sought to absolve the Israeli government of responsibility for the death toll it has inflicted in Gaza.

While Hamas and its actions threaten long-term peace and security in the region (as do Likud and its right-wing partners in government — both being theocratic, authoritarian, corrupt, and violent), it is dishonest to say that “only the cessation of Hamas’ operations, the unconditional surrender of Hamas, and the immediate dismantlement of Hamas and all other Iran-backed terrorist organizations that participated in the massacre of Israelis on and since October 7, 2023, will ensure that innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives are saved” (emphasis added).

Human rights experts and advocates have repeatedly made clear that the allegations that Hamas uses “human shields” does not provide justification for IDF attacks on civilian sites— since two war crimes do not make a right. And the IDF is not taking serious steps to reduce civilian casualties — indeed, their use of AI tools in targeting has increased them. Moreover, the framing of this amendment similarly ignores that the high civilian death toll from IDF bombing will make Israelis, and not only Palestinians, less safe as well because it is a clear recruitment tool for Hamas. Long-term peace and security in the region are necessity, and they require robust political work.

The amendment passed 412 to 11, with only 10 Democrats and 1 Republican (again, Massie) voting no.

The 10 Democrats were Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Greg Casar (TX-35), Chuy García (IL-04), Al Green (TX-09), Summer Lee (PA-12), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-12). AOC was not present for the vote, but my guess is that she would have joined them.

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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.