White House Curtails Congress’s Authority on Arms Sales

New measures by the State Department give unchecked power for arms sales to the president

The Obama administration has blunted Congress’s authority over proposed arms sales to other countries in an effort to cut legislators out of an increasingly prominent aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

Overseas arms sales account for a growing percentage, in some cases up to 25 percent or more, of annual revenue for the military-indutrial complex, and the Obama administration wants more authority to approve such sales to top buyers like Israel and Saudi Arabia without congressional oversight.

“Should Congress have doubts about a proposed sale to one of Israel’s potential adversaries, legislators would have diminished leverage to get their questions answered or to block consideration of the deal if the president is determined to force it through,” Senator Richard Lugar wrote in the Washington Times on Wednesday.

“Traditionally, the executive branch has held off on statutory notification of an arms sale until Congress’ concerns have been addressed through consultations,” Reuters reports. “Congress has 30 days to review a proposed deal after formal notification in the case of most non-NATO countries.”

But the State Department has taken measures to curtail the consultative process, in effect since the late 1970s.

The dispute is one of bureaucratic power struggles, but while Congress is no less apt to misuse and approve arms sales to brutal regime around the world, the curtailment of congressional say in these matters is a strong indication of the Obama administration’s penchant for broad executive powers unchecked by Congress.


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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.