GOP Puts Pressure on Biden With Israel Arms Bill

The Republican-controlled House last Thursday approved a bill that would compel the Biden administration to lift the pause on offensive weapons to Israel in a stern rebuke to President Joe Biden.

The Pentagon confirmed earlier this month that it was withholding shipments of offensive weapons to Israel ostensibly to prevent US bombs from being used in civilian population centers in Gaza.

Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson, blasted the president for withholding military aid that was approved last month by Congress following negotiations with the White House.

The White House and Democrat House leadership scrambled to prevent moderate Democrats from voting with the Republicans in support of the measure after a group of roughly two dozen moderates sent a letter to President Biden expressing deep concern about the message the administration was sending to US allies by pausing the weapons shipment.

Fearful that some Democrats would defect and support the Republican bill, White House officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his deputy Jon Finer, called Democrat lawmakers last week to convince them not to break ranks.

In the end, the measure passed 224-187, with 16 Democrats joining all but three of the Republicans in supporting the bill.

Republicans argued that the president did not have the authority to dictate how Israel used the US-supplied weapons that have been instrumental in its fight against Hamas.

The House measure condemns the Biden administration for pausing the weapons shipment and withholds funding to the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and the State Department until the pause is lifted and the transfer completed.

The White House already announced that the President would veto the bill if it passed the Senate.

However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schummer said last week that the bill would go nowhere in the Senate.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that Republicans were “beyond frustrated” with the administration. He said the United States should not be telling Israel how to conduct its military campaign against Hamas.

Speaking to reporters before Thursday’s vote, Speaker Mike Johnson said it would be Majority Leader Schumer and President Biden who were “standing in the way of getting Israel the resources it desperately needs to defend itself.”