Democrat holdouts Meeks, Cardin have signed off on major arms deal to Israel that includes F-16s

The weaponry is largely financed by the roughly $3.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds Washington gives Israel every year

Published: June 18, 2024 8:12am

Updated: June 18, 2024 8:13am

Two congressional Democrats who had held up a major arms sale to Israel over humanitarian concerns about the war in Gaza have signed off on the deal under pressure from the Biden administration, according to a news report Monday.

The holdouts were New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to The Washington Post.

The deal includes 50 F-15 fighter jets worth more than $18 billion.

The newspaper reports that three U.S. officials familiar with the matter said the lawmakers were also under pressure from pro-Israel advocates and signed off on the deal several weeks ago.

Meeks had vowed to hold up the arms package until he received assurances from the administration about how the warplanes and munitions would be used in Gaza, where local health officials say over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Cardin is a strong supporter of Israel but stood with Meeks in an act of collegial solidarity, the newspaper also reports.

Meeks and Cardin are two of four lawmakers who can effectively veto a foreign military sale. In the case of the F-15 and munitions package. The two top Republicans on the committees – Sen. James E. Risch, of Idaho, and Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas – signed off on the sale months ago.

The State Department can now reportedly proceed with notifying Congress of the approved sale, the next step to completing the transaction. The weaponry is largely financed by the more than $3.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds Washington provides Israel every year.

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