Senate progressives seek to block administration from circumventing Congress on Israel arms transfers

The amendment follows frustration from progressives about the administration’s decision to bypass congressional review of recent arms sales to Israel

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Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) speaks to reporters on his way to a classified all-Senate briefing on Artificial Intelligence at the U.S. Capitol on July 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. Briefers included members from the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.

More than a dozen progressive Senate Democrats announced plans to introduce an amendment to the supplemental aid bill to Israel and other U.S. allies that would eliminate provisions allowing the administration to skip congressional review of arms transfers to Israel.

The supplemental bill, as proposed by the administration and Senate Democratic leadership, includes a provision that would allow the administration to skip the standard notification to Congress and waiting period — during which lawmakers can attempt to block sales — before transferring weapons to Israel.

The administration has utilized waivers allowing it to bypass congressional review for recent arms sales to Israel, prompting outrage from progressives.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who is leading the amendment, said in a statement that aid to Israel should be subject to the same level of scrutiny as U.S. assistance to other allies — which would not be exempt from the notification period under the bill.

“I have strongly supported U.S. aid necessary for Israel’s defense, but all nations should be subject to the same standard,” Kaine said. “I’m filing an amendment to maintain the congressional notification requirement for all U.S. foreign military assistance because Congress and the American taxpayer deserve to know when U.S. arms are transferred to any nation.”

Kaine’s amendment is being supported by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Many of the lawmakers — with the exception of Warnock and Shaheen — are co-sponsoring an amendment to add conditions and other oversight provisions on the aid package.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — who has since declared his opposition to additional aid to Israel, Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) sponsored the conditions amendment but not this amendment.

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