Senate Dems sink amendment to halt Palestinian aid until Hamas’ hostages are released

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Senate Democrats voted down an amendment on Thursday to freeze aid to any Palestinian government until hostages held by Hamas are released and the Palestinian Authority renounces the terrorist group. 

The measure, proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., failed to reach the required 60 votes needed. The final tally was 44 in favor and 50 against the measure. 

A total of 47 Democrats, plus the three independent senators, voted against the amendment. Only one Democrat — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. — cast a vote in favor of the amendment. 

Six Republicans — Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, John Kennedy and Rick Scott — did not cast a vote. 

Hamas is currently holding 130 of the 240 hostages captive, including six Americans, whose conditions are unknown.

The amendment would have barred aid to the Palestinian Authority, or any other Palestinian governing entity in the West Bank and Gaza, until certain conditions were met — like formally renouncing the Ot. 7 terror attacks on Israel. 

‘We speak of human rights but reward those who violate them,’ Paul said on the floor. ‘We can no longer afford empty rhetoric. It makes no sense to borrow money from China and turn around and give that money away to foreign countries. It is fiscally irresponsible, and it is weakening our national security. America must demand a change, a change in behavior from those who do not accept Israel’s right to exist from those who actively seek the destruction of the State of Israel and murder innocent Israelis.’

Paul proposed the amendment to the short-term spending bill that extends funding for government agencies until March. Congress is anticipated to pass the bill by the end of Thursday before sending it to President Biden’s desk.

The amendment would have been subject to exceptions if the president certified certain conditions, including the recognition of Israel as a nation and renunciation of terrorism. Additionally, the amendment would require a report on human rights practices of the Palestinian Authority or other governing entities, including violations.

The Palestinian Authority ‘won’t recognize Israel, they won’t even condemn the massacre where 1,200 people were killed October 7,’ Paul told the Senate. ‘American resources should always promote American security interests and values, and any recipient of our tax dollars should be more than willing to adopt the principles that recognize the liberty and dignity of the individual, but we cannot expect the recipient of aid to change their behavior if America does not demand it.’

According to the amendment, the Department of State’s West Bank and Gaza 2022 Human Rights Report identified significant human rights issues with the Palestinian Authority, ‘including credible  reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings.’ 

Other offenses include ‘torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishments by Palestinian Authority officials, arbitrary arrest or detention of political prisoners and detainees, and significant problems with the independence of the judiciary.’

‘The report found that the Palestinian Authority did not adequately investigate or hold accountable gender-based violence, and crimes, violence, and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism,’ the amendment text read.

Speaking against the amendment on Thursday, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said it was important to ensure a future for the Palestinian people.

‘We know the tragedy of this war with Hamas, but we hope coming out of it will give us a new opportunity for peace in the region,’ Cardin said on the floor. ‘And that will require us to be able to help deal with the crisis that’s been created through Hamas’s attack, particularly with the Palestinian people, and to work to make sure there’s a future for the Palestinian people living in peace with Israel.’

Paul has consistently taken a hawkish stance against foreign aid that he believes lacks proper oversight, particularly expressing strong opposition to ongoing assistance for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia as well. 

Earlier this week, Paul voted alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the lone Republican on a resolution that would have halted U.S. aid to Israel unless the Biden administration reports to Congress within 30 days about whether Israel committed human rights violations during its war with Hamas. The measure failed in a 72-11 vote. 

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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