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Johnson, McConnell demand Biden explanation on delay in sending weapons to Israel

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Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are leaning on President Joe Biden to explain any delay in sending weapons to Israel after the two collaborated on a bipartisan foreign aid bill last month.

In a rare joint letter from the two Republican leaders, Johnson and McConnell said “security assistance to Israel is an urgent priority that must not be delayed.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explained Wednesday that some weapons were on hold over concerns regarding a new Israeli campaign in Rafah and that the administration was reviewing “near-term security assistance shipments.”

After Congress spent about seven months laboring on a foreign aid bill that ultimately sent billions to Israel, McConnell and Johnson said they are “alarmed” with any delay even as progressives cheered the pause.

The Biden administration has been criticized regularly by both progressives and conservatives for either not scrutinizing aid to Israel — or for not doing enough for the country.

“These recent press reports and pauses in critical weapons shipments call into question your pledge that your commitment to Israel’s security remain ironclad,” the two GOP leaders wrote. “Daylight between the United States and Israel at this dangerous time risks emboldening Israel’s enemies.”

They asked Biden to respond by the end of the week to questions about the timing of a review of weapons shipments, whether other shipments will be paused and “most importantly when the review is anticipated to end to allow this vital assistance to move forward.”

It’s a sign that after expending so much political capital to pass the $95 billion foreign aid bill, Capitol Hill’s top two Republicans are paying very close attention to whether the money is moving quickly enough to allies.

McConnell said earlier Wednesday he’d spoken to national security adviser Jake Sullivan about the matter, as well as the Israeli defense minister.