Mike McCaul calls for action on Israel — with or without a speaker


“I think we cannot wait. We have to get that message out as soon as possible,” McCaul said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” warning that leaders in China and Iran were watching.

McCaul’s appeal comes amid mounting impatience in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle in Congress to show solidarity with Israel, America’s most significant partner in the Middle East.

Senate Democrats are pushing aggressively for quick confirmation of Jack Lew as ambassador to Israel, a position that remains vacant. And some centrist House Republicans are considering a long-shot attempt to reappoint Kevin McCarthy as Speaker amid concern that another drawn out speakership battle will delay action to aid Israel.

“How does the Ayatollah look at this knowing that we cannot function properly? And I think it sends a terrible message,” McCaul said Sunday. “We have to get a speaker elected this week so we can get things on the floor like replenishing the Iron Dome,” referencing Israel’s defense system against rockets fired at its territory.

On Sunday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called on House Republicans to end their “civil war” so that the body could respond to the violent attack in Israel.

“It is my hope that our Republican colleagues get their act together, can settle on a speaker who could receive 217 votes, and that we can move forward to get the business of the American people done, both as it related to our domestic needs — solve problems on behalf of the American people — as well as our national security considerations in terms of being there for Israel, being there for the Ukrainian people, being there for our allies all throughout the free world,” Jeffries said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Biden administration made it clear it regarded Hamas’ attack on Israel as a major international crisis. “This is the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

And President Joe Biden on Saturday pledged his “unwavering” support for Israel’s security.

“Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop. There’s never a justification for terrorist attacks. And my administration’s support for Israel security is rock solid and unwavering,” he said during an address at the White House in the hours after the initial attack.

The chaos in Congress won’t completely cripple the Biden administration’s ability to assist Israel — Blinken pointed out Sunday that the Obama administration struck an agreement to provide Israel with $3.8 billion a year in defense assistance, much of which is ongoing. Blinken also hit the Sunday show circuit to tease an announcement on additional assistance to Israel coming as soon as Sunday.

But the paralysis gripping the House does threatens to slow down further action out of Washington and also raise the possibility of the United States looking weak to others throughout the world.

“As a general proposition, it would be very important we have both houses of Congress on a bipartisan basis in a place where they can clearly show and express their support for Israel,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Not all members of Congress are worried about the consequences that could come from keeping the speaker’s seat empty for a few days.

“I’m very concerned about what Hezbollah might do, what Lebanon might do there to try to create more — more instability. But there is no ask from Israel that we are unable to meet because it’s going to take us a few days to pick a new speaker,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who brought the motion to vacate against McCarthy, said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

McCarthy said essentially the opposite during a Fox News interview Saturday.

“There is nothing the House can do until they elect a speaker, and I don’t know if that happens quickly. The speaker is part of the ‘Gang of 8’ that takes action to be able to have briefing,” McCarthy said. Jeffries noted that the Gang of 8 had not had a briefing on the attack as of Sunday morning.

Even with a speaker, the conflict in Israel has the potential to divide Congress as the country launches its counter-attack on Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared early Saturday that the U.S. ally was “at war” and promised to “return fire with a magnitude that the enemy has not known.” An extended war against Gaza could anger those on the left in the House who have, in the past, regarded Israel as an oppressor.

Others in Congress want to make sure Israel is not constrained in any way.

“What Israel needs now more than anything is freedom of action,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo.”

“There’s no question that the Israeli Defense Forces can destroy Hamas inside the Gaza Strip, but they need the freedom of action and time to destroy, Hamas,” he said. “That takes the form of American military, diplomatic and political support.”


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