OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The Senate, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, voted to table a resolution on Tuesday that would have required the State Department to report on Israel’s actions in Gaza after the country declared war on Hamas following an Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed some 1,300 people and abducted hundreds of others, including Americans.
The vote comes after President Joe Biden has twice bypassed Congress and approved weapon sales to the Jewish state, which is continuing to carry out operations in Gaza.
The resolution, in part, stated:
The Senate requests that the Secretary of State, not later than 30 days after the date of the adoption of this resolution, transmit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, pursuant to section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2304(c)), a statement regarding Israel’s human rights practices that has been prepared in collaboration with the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and the Office of the Legal Adviser.
The resolution was tabled on a 72-11 vote, with 17 senators not voting at all.
Earlier this month, some Democrats in the Senate were upset with Biden after his first decision to bypass Congress and send additional weapons to Israel as the Jewish state continued its offensive in Gaza.
“The Defense Department said Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had notified Congress about its second emergency determination to cover over $147.5 million in equipment sales, including new fuses and chargers for the 155 mm shells already purchased by the Israeli military,” the Washington Examiner reported at the time.
In a statement, Blinken said: “Given the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed, necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer.”
The emergency declaration, by law, allows the Executive Branch to waive the normal requirement of congressional review typically required for sales of U.S. military equipment to other countries.
The Examiner noted further:
The back-to-back emergency declarations for Israel sparked fresh criticism from Senate Democrats who have cited concerns that the Israeli military has failed to take the necessary steps to prevent civilian causalities in Gaza, as the death toll surpasses 21,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
More to the point, however, some Democrats in the chamber ripped the method by which the sales were authorized by the State Department. They argued that using an emergency determination as a means of approving the weapons for a foreign military means the Biden administration has bypassed an essential check on the Executive Branch.
“Unnecessarily bypassing Congress means keeping the American people in the dark,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Punchbowl News. “We need a public explanation of the rationale behind this decision — the second such decision this month.”
By failing to include the Legislative Branch in the decision-making process for foreign military sales, the Biden administration’s decision “undermines transparency and weakens accountability,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) added in a statement.
The weapons authorized for and sent to Israel have “been used to devastating effect in Gaza, contributing to the death and injury of countless civilians and the displacement of an estimated 2 million people,” Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) noted.
“The war in Gaza has generated immense controversy and concern in the United States and around the world,” Welch added in a statement. “The president should follow the established procedure of submitting his arms sales recommendations to Congress for prior approval.”