Biden administration bypasses Congress again for emergency arms sale to Israel

The Biden administration has bypassed Congress for the second time this month to provide an emergency arms sale to Israel amid its war with Hamas.

The sale of $147.5 million in equipment such as fuzes, chargers and primers is intended to help the functionality of the U.S. ally’s previous purchase of nearly 14,000 rounds of 155 mm shells in early December.

The emergency determination means the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales.

Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers’ approval.

Blinken made a similar decision on Dec. 9, to approve the sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million.

Both moves have come as President Joe Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs remains stalled in Congress, caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.

Some Democratic lawmakers have spoken of making the proposed $14.3 billion in American assistance to its Mideast ally contingent on concrete steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the war with Hamas.

The State Department sought to counter potential criticism of the sale on human rights grounds by saying it was in constant touch with Israel to emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties, which have soared since Israel began its response to the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

Worth mentioning that bypassing Congress with emergency determinations for arms sales is an unusual step that has in the past met resistance from lawmakers, who normally have a period of time to weigh in on proposed weapons transfers and, in some cases, block them.