House to vote on bill overriding Biden’s freeze on arms shipments to Israel

Republican-held House of Representatives to move forward with bill aimed at negating Biden’s partial suspension of weapons transfers to Israel.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on a bill that would compel the Biden administration to approve arms sales to Israel.

Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) released the Israel Security Assistance Support Act on Saturday.

The bill condemns the Biden administration’s decision to pause an arms shipment to Israel and would withhold funds from the Pentagon and U.S. State Department unless that and future shipments are approved.

“The House and Senate acted on the will of the people, overwhelmingly providing Israel with the firepower to send a message: the U.S. and our allies will not cower to terrorist organizations like Hamas,” the lawmakers stated.

“The administration is expected to utilize the very aid it requested to equip Israel with what it needs to defend itself, destroy Hamas and maintain peace in the region.”

Withholding resources would “impede our national and global security and send a dangerous signal that the U.S. cannot be counted on as a partner,” the lawmakers added.

“We demand the administration fulfill our commitment to our great ally in the Middle East, especially so in this serious time of need,” they added.

The act would cut off the salaries of State and Defense Department officials involved in withholding or canceling the delivery of arms and defense services to Israel.

It would also withhold some funds to those departments and the Executive Office of the President until the sales are approved.

It would also require the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress every 30 days about the provision of arms to Israel.

The bill notes that Congress has approved $12.5 billion in annual and supplemental military aid to Israel so far this year. Israel uses much of that aid to make arms purchases from the United States which need the administration’s approval.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed in congressional testimony on Wednesday that the administration has paused the approval of at least one arms shipment to Israel, amid concerns about a potential large-scale Israeli ground operation in the south Gazan city of Rafah.

That shipment reportedly includes 3,500 bombs.

U.S. President Joe Biden told CNN that he would consider cutting off all U.S.-supplied offensive arms to Israel if it went into Rafah.

“We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently,” Biden said. “We’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells.”

The decision to withhold one arms shipment and the threat to cut off others if Israel goes into Rafah has garnered strong criticism from Republicans and some pro-Israel Democrats.

Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) led 24 of their Democratic colleagues in a letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying that they were “deeply concerned” by the decision to hold back the arms shipment.

Former president Donald Trump said at a rally in New Jersey on Saturday that Biden’s decision to pause the sale was an example of his “weak and pathetic” presidency.

“I support Israel’s right to win its war on terror. Is that okay?” Trump said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad politically. I don’t care. Gotta do what’s right.”

While lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House might vote for the Israel Security Assistance Support Act on Wednesday, the bill will face a tougher audience in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Were it to pass, Biden would likely veto it.

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