McConnell, Johnson demand Biden answer for holdup of Israeli weapons shipments

The Republican leaders said ‘daylight between the United States and Israel at this dangerous time risks emboldening Israel's enemies’

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: (L-R) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) attend a congressional tribute in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol for retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. on April 29, 2024 in Washington, DC. One of the U.S. Army's most highly decorated servicemen, Puckett died at his home in Columbus, Georgia on April 8, 2024 at the age of 97. He was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor in May 2021 by President Joe Biden for his exploits during the Korean War. Puckett was wounded leading a company of outnumbered Army Rangers in a battle against Communist Chinese troops. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemning his administration for placing holds on weapons sales and shipments to Israel.

Following media reports accusing the Biden administration of holding up the pending sale of two types of Boeing precision bombs to Israel, senior administration officials confirmed that they had refused to move a pending sale forward “to send a political message” about U.S. disapproval of a Rafah invasion. 

Johnson and McConnell excoriated Biden over the delays, pointing to their collective work to pass Israel aid as a critical element of the national security supplemental. 

“Having recently worked on a bipartisan basis to pass an emergency national security supplemental appropriations bill that included urgent assistance to Israel, we were alarmed by media reports that your Administration had delayed the delivery of a variety of weapons shipments bound for Israel,” Johnson and McConnell wrote. “This news flies in the face of assurances provided regarding the timely delivery of security assistance to Israel.” 

Johnson’s ability to pass Ukraine aid through the House was largely because of his ability to pair that assistance with a bill guaranteeing funding for  Israel. He and McConnell wrote in their letter that while they “appreciate recent clarifications that assistance funded by the supplemental appropriations bill will not be impacted, we believe that security assistance to Israel is an urgent priority that must not be delayed.”

The Republican leaders alleged in the letter that they only learned “that ‘a review of a specific weapons shipment’ was underway” as a result of “public press reports and subsequent engagement by our offices” with Biden’s staff. This was “despite regular engagement on security assistance to Israel, and repeated assurances from the most senior officials over the past several months.”

Johnson and McConnell also claimed that they “have not been able to obtain pertinent information from the Department of State or from the Department of Defense regarding the ongoing review.”

“These recent press reports and pauses in critical weapons shipments call into question your pledge that your commitment to Israel’s security will remain ironclad,” McConnell and Johnson wrote. “Israel faces an existential and multi-front threat as recently demonstrated by the direct attack by Iran and Iranian-backed terrorists, and daylight between the United States and Israel at this dangerous time risks emboldening Israel’s enemies and undermining the trust that other allies and partners have in the United States.”

“We believe security assistance to Israel, Ukraine, and vulnerable partners in the Indo-Pacific should be expedited to the fullest extent possible,” they continued. “We expect your Administration will push departments, agencies, and industry to expedite contracting, production, and delivery of weapons and munitions critical to the defense of the United States and the free world in accordance with Congressional intent.”

The House and Senate leaders asked for Biden to respond to their queries on “the timing of this ‘review,’ if any other shipments will be similarly paused, what office is responsible for conducting the review(s), and most importantly when the review is anticipated to end to allow this vital assistance to move forward.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Jewish Insider’s request for comment on the letter. 

Marc Rod contributed to this report.

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