GOP Senator Introduces Bill To Continue Arms Sales to Israel

Sen. Cotton's legislation brings fight over Biden’s arms pause to Senate

Sen. Tom Cotton (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
May 14, 2024

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) on Tuesday filed legislation that would force the Biden administration to continue providing arms to Israel, following a hotly contested bill introduced in the House that has divided Democrats and put the Biden administration on defense.

Cotton introduced a Senate version of a bill currently circulating in the House that would bypass the Biden administration’s pause in arms sales to Israel, which the White House has been aggressively lobbying against. House Democrats in the narrowly controlled GOP House are fighting to kill the bill, and Cotton’s Senate version is likely to initiate a similar fight in the upper chamber.

Like the House version, the bill would force the Biden administration to complete all scheduled arms deliveries to Israel and blow past a pause in key munitions that the White House says is necessary to force Israel into abandoning its planned incursion into the Gaza Strip’s Rafah neighborhood. Cotton’s bill would also cancel the salaries of any Biden administration official at the Pentagon or State Department who engages in any effort to withhold arms shipments to Israel.

The bill is cosponored by 20 of Cotton's GOP colleagues, including Sens. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), Rick Scott (R., Fla.), Ted Budd (R., N.C.), Roger Marshall (R., Kan.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.), among others.

As part of the legislation, the Biden administration will be required to "ensure prompt delivery of all defense articles and services for Israel that are expected to be delivered in fiscal years 2024 and 2025."

"Joe Biden has sanctioned Israelis and placed an arms embargo on Israel while giving sanctions relief to Iran with no arms embargo for Iran," Cotton said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. "This bill will ensure that our Israeli allies continue to receive the support that they need to defeat Hamas, while making clear that any official who supports this embargo will be doing so without a paycheck."

While some reports indicated the Senate would not get involved in the issue, Cotton’s legislative effort signals mounting frustration with the Biden administration's increasingly hostile relations with Israel. President Joe Biden has already paused some munitions shipments to Israel and has publicly threatened to pause more aid if Israel invades Rafah.

The White House is lobbying against the House version of the arms bill, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters: "We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the president’s ability to deploy a U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives."

The House bill was introduced during the weekend and already has the support of the chamber’s GOP majority. Democratic leaders in the House, however, are lobbying their members to oppose the legislation, though it is unclear if moderate Democrats will join this effort during a contested election season.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D., N.Y.) has already broken with his Democratic colleagues, telling Axios, "I have a general rule of supporting pro-Israel legislation unless it includes a poison pill—like cuts to domestic policy."