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D.C. Download: How Nevada's Democrats are navigating growing calls for Gaza ceasefire

As Culinary joins the ranks of those calling for a ceasefire, Nevada Democrats are continuing to stand with Biden on Israel.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

More than five months have passed since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel declared war on Hamas. In the U.S., tensions have simmered among Democrats over the Biden administration’s handling of the war and the president’s continued support of Israel, as the death toll in Gaza has climbed to more than 31,000.

Those tensions are apparent in Congress, with progressives unwilling to back unconditional aid to Israel. Even among pro-Israel Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, patience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wearing thin.

Nevada’s Democrats have maintained fairly strong support for Israel since the start of the war while encouraging the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. I checked with most of them this week to see how their thinking about the conflict has evolved — particularly after the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the preeminent force in Nevada Democratic politics, called for a ceasefire last Friday.

The News of the Week: Israel-Hamas war 

After months of support from the majority of the Democratic Party in Congress, Israel crossed a red line for many after reports that its military turned away desperately needed food aid for Gazans in Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians have taken shelter from Israeli bombing. The United Nations’ food agency warns that Rafah is on the brink of widespread famine.

In the wake of Israel’s blockade, the Biden administration ordered the building of a floating dock off the coast of Rafah to deliver aid and has begun delivering food, water and supplies via air.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel is planning a ground invasion into Rafah — a move that Biden called a personal “red line” that could change the way the U.S. has approached aiding Israel, including potentially reassessing Israel’s use of U.S.-made weapons. 

Several congressional Democrats have argued that Israel’s conduct with respect to humanitarian aid has crossed the line. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has suggested the Senate could block arms shipments to Israel; seven senators, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have argued that U.S. military aid to Israel is already illegal under a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits continued military aid to nations that restrict the U.S.’ ability to deliver humanitarian assistance. 

And on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish official in U.S. history and a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, took to the Senate floor to urge Israelis to call for new elections, saying Netanyahu’s governance was “stuck in the past.”

That tension goes both ways — Netanyahu has made overt efforts to cozy up to the Republican Party and work against Democrats and has gone against longheld Democratic belief in a two-state solution by rejecting the notion of a Palestinian state.

The Nevada Angle

The Nevada delegation contains one of Israel’s strongest supporters among Democrats — Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Rosen, the first former synagogue president to serve in the Senate, traveled with Schumer to Israel in the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7.

Rosen has maintained that aid to Israel be unconditional and is needed urgently. In the aftermath of the attack, she screened footage of it for her fellow senators. But Rosen hasn’t been unconditionally supportive of Netanyahu’s government either; on a congressional delegation to Israel she led in January 2023 before the war, Axios reported she told the Israeli government she did not want to meet with Cabinet members representing the most far-right elements of Israel’s governing coalition. 

In a statement to The Nevada Independent, Rosen offered a rebuttal of Schumer’s remarks calling for new elections in Israel without mentioning him by name, saying “it is up to the Israeli people to determine their political future” and also noting that the alliance between Israel and the U.S. transcends any one government.

“We must continue providing unconditional aid to Israel to defeat the Hamas terrorists and release the hostages, while doing everything we can to deliver more humanitarian aid that reaches Palestinian civilians,” she said.

In a statement posted to X on Thursday, her likely 2024 opponent Sam Brown criticized Rosen for not challenging Schumer’s call for new elections.

“Sen. Rosen so far refuses to speak out against her party leader’s embrace of Hamas talking points,” he wrote.

In the wake of Culinary’s call for a ceasefire, I also checked in with Nevada’s three House members on the conflict. 

In a Wednesday interview, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who was about to meet with Las Vegas representatives from the American Israel Political Action Committee, said that he is hopeful that Biden’s leadership will help the Israeli government understand that its self-defense must be coupled with protecting innocent lives.

“Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself,” he said. “How they do it, and the protection of innocent civilians in Gaza, is critical, especially with the ongoing humanitarian crisis that we're seeing play out.”

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), meanwhile, put the onus on Hamas to end the war.

“We could end the war right now if Hamas surrenders and returns hostages,” Lee said, adding that after the war, she wants to see leaders work toward a two-state solution in which Palestinians have the right to self-determination and Israel has the right to exist.

When asked if she had any red lines in relation to Israeli aid, Lee said she wants to see humanitarian assistance to Gaza included in any package.

The Senate’s bipartisan foreign aid bill included funding for Israel and humanitarian assistance to Gaza, but House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has refused to take it up.

Finally, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said she continues to support the administration’s “balanced approach” to the war, adding that the civilian death toll in Gaza is unacceptable but that Hamas is to blame for the lack of a ceasefire.

“I'm glad we're building that floating dock to deliver more humanitarian aid,” she said. “Hopefully there'll be at least a temporary ceasefire.”

The Impact

The war in Gaza has become one of the most divisive issues among Democrats, and particularly among young voters — a group critical to Democratic plans for 2024. An AP poll from late January found that 63 percent of Democrats believe Israel has gone too far in its actions in Gaza.

In a swing state such as Nevada, these tensions can have electoral implications. In a February Bloomberg poll of Nevada voters, 41 percent of voters younger than 34 described the Israel-Hamas war as a “very important” issue; only 14 percent of young voters said they trusted Biden more than Trump on the issue.

There’s still more than seven months to go until Election Day, but if the war continues to drag on, then its unpopularity with younger voters could continue to be a drag on Biden — and Democrats in Nevada who are sticking with him on Israel policy.

Around the Capitol

📲Tik, tik, tikThe House voted by a wide margin for a bill that would force TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to divest from the Chinese government or be banned across the country. It was a quick move from a body known for its glacial pace, particularly when it comes to regulating tech companies and legislating on data privacy.

I talked to each of Nevada’s House Democrats about the vote, all of whom said their national security concerns about Chinese access to Americans’ data was high. And they added that their office phones have been ringing off the hook from constituents bemoaning a ban.

Horsford was the only Nevada Democrat to vote against the bill — noting his opposition in a TikTok, as it were. He said he was concerned about targeting just one company, when multiple social platforms’ algorithms are promoting misinformation and harvesting data from users.

🚴Biking the Modoc line The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is receiving a nearly $30 million grant from the Department of Transportation, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to build a bike path connecting tribal communities across the Pyramid Lake Reservation.

The proposed path will run along old “Modoc line,” a former railroad path, and connect communities at Sutcliffe, Nixon and Wadsworth. 

🏢Titus’ T&I triumphThree of Titus’ transportation and infrastructure bills passed the House this week, focusing on disaster response and public buildings — issues in her portfolio as the ranking member of the relevant subcommittee.

The measures were all agreed to by voice vote, meaning members did not record how they voted.  

Notable and Quotable:

“We've gotten lots of calls, but they're mostly from 10-year-olds.”

— Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), on constituent outreach on the TikTok bill

What I’m Reading

Reuters: US to lend Lithium Americas $2.26 billion for Nevada’s Thacker Pass mine

The latest update in the long and complicated tale of Thacker Pass. The Biden administration is financing what it hopes will become a massive part of the domestic electric vehicle battery manufacturing industry.

The Nevada Independent: Biden to visit Las Vegas and Reno

POTUS cometh.

KLAS 8 News Now: Nevada senators ‘reviewing’ potential TikTok sale or ban

When politically tricky proposals drop, senators start acting like Scott Foster late in games.

Vote of the week

H.Res.1065 — Denouncing the Biden administration’s immigration policies

This was a messaging bill House Republicans brought up, undoubtedly to cut ads against members who voted against it. Hence, many vulnerable Democrats decided to vote “yes.”



LEE: Yes


Staffing Announcements

Kristy Wilkinson is joining Sam Brown’s Senate campaign as communications director. Wilkinson previously worked for the Republican National Committee, Better Nevada PAC and on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) campaign.


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