WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are pushing to prevent the Biden administration from bypassing Congress when approving weapons sales to Israel as the Jewish state continues its war against Hamas under increasing scrutiny.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will be introducing an amendment Tuesday that if passed would strike language in the $118 billion national security supplemental allowing for the administration to send any future arms sales to Israel without first notifying Congress.
The larger border legislation is increasingly at risk of dying in the Senate amid bipartisan opposition, making it unlikely that the Israel provision will see a vote. Yet the push from Kaine and the majority of the Senate Democratic caucus is the latest example of the growing critique from those in President Joe Biden‘s party regarding his handling of the bloody, ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and America’s increasing role in it.
“Congress and the American people deserve full transparency about military assistance to all nations,” Kaine said in a statement to The Associated Press. “No president of any party should bypass Congress on issues of war, peace, and diplomacy.”
The amendment, which has the backing from the chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees, comes after Biden went around lawmakers twice in December to send more than $250 million of weaponry to Israel. Bypassing Congress with emergency determinations for arms sales is an unusual step that has in past administrations been met with resistance from lawmakers who normally have a period of at least 15 to 30 days to weigh in on proposed weapons transfers and, in some cases, block them.
The State Department sought to counter potential criticism of the sales on human rights grounds by saying it was in constant touch with Israel to emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties, which have soared to more than 25,000 since Israel began its response to the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.
The Biden administration has also justified the recent sales by citing emergency determinations. It is a rare but not unprecedented move the State Department makes when it sees an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers’ approval.
But Kaine and a growing number of Democrats are calling for the administration to adhere to a more deliberative process as escalations in the Middle East continue with more involvement by U.S. troops in the region.
“That’s why I’m introducing a commonsense amendment, backed by dozens of my Senate colleagues, to ensure that we maintain full congressional oversight for U.S. aid to Israel, just as we do for every other nation we support,” he said. “The same standard should apply to every country receiving U.S. military assistance.”
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.