Top House Democrat backs off plan to ask for delay in Israel arms sale

Top House Democrat backs off plan to ask for delay in Israel arms sale
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will not request a delay to an arms sale to Israel after the Biden administration agreed to brief lawmakers on the deal, he said Tuesday.

“What we wanted to do is to have a dialogue and conversation,” committee Chairman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Democrats ask what went wrong on Election Day On The Money — Presented by Citi — Pelosi plays hardball with Manchin Pelosi presses ahead on vote without Manchin buy-in MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to have a meeting with the administration tomorrow where the issues and the questions that one may have will be able to be asked, and that was the purpose of considering the letter.”

Meeks’ comments come after he told Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday night he was planning to send a letter to the Biden administration asking for a delay in a recently approved $735 million sale so members could have more time to review it, a congressional aide confirmed to The Hill.

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The administration notified Congress on May 5 it approved the sale to Israel. The bulk of the deal is for Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions that can turn so-called dumb bombs into precision-guided missiles.

The notification set off a 15-day congressional review period in which lawmakers could block the sale. But that window is all but closed now with just three days left in the review period.

The approval for the arms sale came five days before Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, began firing rockets toward Israel in response to Israeli police action at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam. But it is now eliciting scrutiny amid the escalating violence.

Several Democrats have expressed concern about the administration proceeding with the sale amid the conflict, including Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal War of words escalates in House Mace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week MORE (D-Minn.), who said it would be “appalling” for the sale to move forward.

On Tuesday, Meeks stressed Congress’s oversight role on arms sales.

“Congress has a role, and the Foreign Affairs Committee has a role, and I want to make sure that the Foreign Affairs Committee, in any administration, everyone knows, that we're going to play the role that the Constitution intends us to play,” he said.