up in arms

Senate progressives gripe about Biden bypassing congressional review for Israel arms sale

‘Congress must discuss the merits of supporting the transfer of lethal aid, which has grave implications… for the millions of civilians trapped in Gaza,’ Sen. Peter Welch said

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Joe Biden departs from the White House in Washington on Marine One to begin his journey to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 20, 2023.

A handful of Senate progressives criticized the Biden administration over the holidays for bypassing the congressional review period to transfer around $150 million worth of ammunition to Israel.

This was the second time in recent weeks that the administration exercised emergency authorities to bypass the congressional review period for weapons transfers to Israel — during which lawmakers could attempt to force a vote on blocking the arms transfer.

Some progressive Democrats who have expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations in Gaza and are pushing for a vote on conditioning aid in the still-pending supplemental aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, blasted the administration.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) most explicitly tied his concerns about the weapons sale to concerns about Israel’s conduct in the war, arguing in a statement that the weapons had “been used to devastating effect in Gaza, contributing to the death and injury of countless civilians and the displacement of an estimated 2 million people who are facing daily bombardment without access to adequate food, water, shelter, or medical care.”

He argued that given the “immense controversy and concern” about the war, “Congress must discuss the merits of supporting the transfer of lethal aid, which has grave implications not only for the millions of civilians trapped in Gaza who had no part in the horrific slaughter of innocent Israelis on October 7th by Hamas, but also for the United States.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in a statement that Congress “should have full visibility over the weapons we transfer to any other nation.”

“Unnecessarily bypassing Congress means keeping the American people in the dark. We need a public explanation of the rationale behind this decision — the second such decision this month,” Kaine continued.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said in a statement, which did not mention Israel directly: “Congressional review is a critical step for examining any large arms sale. The Administration’s decision to repeatedly short-circuit what is already a quick time frame for congressional review undermines transparency and weakens accountability. The public deserves answers.”

When the Senate and House return to Washington next week, debate around weapons sales to Israel is likely to accelerate again as Congress returns its focus to the emergency aid package in the coming days.

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