WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has trimmed the US Congress' decades-long role in vetting billions of dollars in proposed arms sales in a move that will result in more congressional efforts to block deals, key lawmakers said in a letter made public Wednesday.
The newly disclosed tug-of-war between the lawmakers and the administration over the issue threatens to derail case-by-case consideration of arms deals, an increasingly prominent aspect of US foreign policy.
Overseas sales account for a growing percentage, in some cases up to 25 percent or more, of annual revenue for US arms makers squeezed by flattening sales to the Pentagon amid deficit-reduction efforts.
The dispute could have "severe implications" for US national security and that of US partners including Israel, warned Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"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," Lugar wrote in a guest column in the Washington Times newspaper on Wednesday.