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Sanders push to halt arms sale to Israeli regime faces obstacles

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

A legislative effort by US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders to block a $735 million weapons sale to the Israeli regime by the Biden administration appears to be headed for failure by lawmakers on the pay-list of powerful pro-Israel lobby groups.

The development came as progressive legislators in US Congress mounted a late bid to try to halt the massive arms sale amid the brutal Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian population in the besieged Gaza Strip and other occupied territories, the US-based The Hill news outlet reported Friday.

According to the report, Sanders’s effort “is shaping to be largely symbolic, and short-lived” as he encounters multiple nuisances that essentially guarantee his resolution would not be approved in the US Senate.

Typically when lawmakers try to prevent an arms sale — something Congress has never accomplished through a joint resolution — they are able to force a vote, with passage requiring only a simple majority in the Senate by using the Arms Export Control Act to bypass the 60-vote filibuster, according to the report, which means that Sanders would need 51 votes to block the administration’s arms sale.

Progressives have fumed over the sale, as it coincides with the Israeli military campaign that has left more than 200 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip. Sanders in being joined in his effort by a group House lawmakers led by New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

While a growing number of Democrats, including leadership in both chambers, publicly supported efforts for a cease-fire between Tel Aviv and the Hamas resistance movement in Gaza, calling off the arms sale to the Israeli regime did not garner nearly as much support.

To make up that difference, Sanders would need to peel off a significant number of mostly hawkish and fervently pro-Israel Republicans, who are unlikely to vote for his resolution.

In addition to the vote shortage, it’s unclear whether Sanders’s resolution will qualify for the fast-track procedures that allow him to bring it to the floor.

The Biden administration notified Congress on May 5 that it approved selling Israel $735 million in weapons, mostly Boeing-made joint direct attack munitions that can turn so-called dumb bombs into precision-guided missiles.

Most arms sales are subject to a 30-day congressional review period during which lawmakers can attempt to block the deal if they want. But some close US allies, including the Israeli regime, are afforded a 15-day review period, which runs out this week.

Under the fast-track procedures, Sanders still needs to let the resolution sit in the Foreign Relations Committee for 10 calendar days before he can try to bring it to the Senate floor. And the House is out of town until mid-June, well past the congressional review period.

Sanders’s office, when it announced the resolution on Thursday, said the measure is privileged, “which means the senator will have the option to bring it up for a vote.”

Sanders declined to comment when approached by reporters on the issue except to say that they were working on it and that he thought Congress should have a “discussion.”

“Our goal must be to bring, to do everything possible, under very, very difficult circumstances to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together,” Sanders emphasized. “That is the best way we fight terrorism, not just give support to Israel. We need an even handed approach.”

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