The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday designed to pressure President Joe Biden into delivering weapons to Israel, drawing attention to the divided Democratic caucus on the ongoing war in Gaza. The Israel Security Assistance Support Act, which would prevent federal funds from being used to withhold defense services or weapons to Israel, passed the House 224-187, with 16 Democrats voting in favor and only three Republicans opposing it.

The vote comes shortly after the White House halted a shipment of weapons to Israel, including 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs. President Biden said in an interview with CNN last week that the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons if its military invades Gaza's southern city of Rafah, citing Israel's use of the bombs to kill Palestinian civilians.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) applauded the bill's passage, slamming the Biden administration's decision to withhold weapons as "catastrophic" and going "directly against the will of Congress." He added that passing the act sends "a clear message of solidarity and support to Israel" and demanded "the urgent delivery of defense weapons to our most important ally in the Middle East."

However, the bill is largely symbolic, as it is not expected to be taken up in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has indicated that the measure is "not going anywhere." The White House also emphasized its opposition to the House GOP bill, arguing that it would "undermine the President's ability to execute an effective foreign policy" and stating that Biden would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called the bill a "deliberate distortion" of Biden's policy, intended to score political points rather than help Israel. "President Biden will take a back seat to no one on his support for Israel and will ensure that Israel has everything it needs to defeat Hamas," Watson said. "President Biden is also strongly on the record for the protection of innocent civilians."

Outside the Capitol, a group of about 20 pro-Palestinian congressional staffers demonstrated before the House vote, calling on Biden and Congress to "immediately end U.S. support for Israel's assault on the civilians of Gaza," according to Samantha Elghanayan, a staffer for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). The protest, which Elghanayan noted was on her personal time, highlighted the rare occurrence of congressional staffers publicly voicing their opinions on policy matters.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) called for the protesting staffers to be fired, stating, "They have no business taking taxpayer money, which is what they're doing when they come during work hours to protest, and wasting that taxpayer money to voice their opinion that, frankly, nobody asked them for."

The passage of the bill underscored the deep U.S. election-year divide over Israel policy as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government seeks to eliminate militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Palestinian authorities say at least 35,272 civilians have been killed during Israel's campaign in Gaza, with widespread malnutrition and much of the population left homeless due to destroyed infrastructure.

Republicans accused Biden of turning his back on Israel after facing widespread pro-Palestinian protests, while Democrats accused the other party of playing politics and distorting Biden's position on Israel. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said, "It is not a serious effort at legislation, which is why some of the most pro-Israel members of the House Democratic caucus will be voting no."

Despite the delay of one shipment of bombs and the review of other weapons shipments by the Biden administration, Israel is still due to receive billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance. As recently as Tuesday, the State Department had moved a $1 billion package of weapons aid for Israel into the congressional review process, according to U.S. officials.