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Biden Admin Exempted Itself From Anti-Terrorism Laws To Send Aid to Gaza. Senate Republicans Want To Strip That Authority.


Senate Republicans want to strip the Biden administration of its power to skirt federal anti-terrorism laws in order to pump millions in taxpayer funding into the Palestinian territories, including the war-torn Gaza Strip, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

The legislation, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and three of his Republican colleagues, is a response to a 2023 Free Beacon report that revealed the Biden administration exempted itself from anti-terrorism laws to resume funding to the Gaza Strip and West Bank, aid that was frozen under the previous administration.

State Department diplomats warned in an internal assessment at the time that “there is a high risk Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza,” but the administration moved forward anyway. Cruz’s legislation—filed on Tuesday and backed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.)—would block the Biden administration from granting itself future sanctions exemptions in order to pump aid dollars into Gaza amid the Hamas terror group’s war against Israel.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by the Free Beacon, would remove a key authority that the Biden administration uses to bypass federal laws barring the American government from pumping taxpayer dollars into areas controlled by terror factions. The measure is certain to garner widespread GOP backing in both the House and Senate, but it could run into Democratic opposition amid a broader push to increase American aid into Gaza. It is also likely to draw fierce opposition from the Biden administration, which is pressuring Israel to increase the amount of humanitarian aid making its way into Gaza.

When the Biden administration first resumed American funding to the Palestinians in 2021, it petitioned the Treasury Department to issue a license allowing money to flow into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. This authorization was needed, the State Department argued in internal emails, to conduct activities “that would otherwise be prohibited by the Global Terrorist Sanctions Regulations and the Foreign Terrorist Organization Sanctions Regulations.”

The State Department claimed it needed “broad flexibility” to bypass counterterrorism laws and fund a range of projects inside Gaza and the West Bank.

“If you have to exempt yourself from American laws prohibiting material support for terrorism to funnel money somewhere, you should not be sending money there,” Cruz told the Free Beacon. “The Biden administration exempted and continues to exempt itself from exactly those sorts of anti-terrorism laws.”

Prior to injecting more than $300 million into the Palestinian territories, the Biden administration exempted itself and international nonprofit groups from anti-terrorism restrictions.

These groups included America’s top aid partner, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a humanitarian group that was recently found to employ scores of Hamas militants, including several who participated in the terror group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The administration, Cruz said, “used the loopholes they gave themselves to fund groups such as UNRWA that support Hamas, which provided the resources for Hamas to arm itself and create its vast underground terrorist camp, which directly facilitated Hamas’s October 7 atrocities.”

By December 2022, the administration wrote a general license into the underlying anti-terrorism regulations to ensure it had full authority to keep aid flowing, even as concerns mounted about Hamas intercepting the cash.

Cruz’s bill would erase these authorities and revert the law back to its original form. The American government, as well as UNRWA and other U.S.-funded nonprofits, would no longer be authorized to spend taxpayer cash on projects inside the Gaza Strip. The senator said his legislation “will prevent this administration or any future administration from taking these reckless steps in the future.”

Cruz and other Republicans have also raised concerns that the administration’s funding to the Palestinians violates the Taylor Force Act, a 2018 law that freezes U.S. funding until the Palestinian government ends its policy of paying imprisoned terrorists—a practice that continues to this day.

In 2021, amid the State Department’s scramble to secure an exemption from counterterrorism laws, the Biden administration deleted references to the Palestinian government’s terror incitement in an official report sent to Congress.

The omissions drew accusations that the Biden administration was working to whitewash Palestinian terror incitement as it sought clearance to restart American aid.

The post Biden Admin Exempted Itself From Anti-Terrorism Laws To Send Aid to Gaza. Senate Republicans Want To Strip That Authority. appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.