GOP Senate freshmen pledge support for Israel

The vast majority of Republican freshmen in the U.S. Senate have signed on to a letter committing to current levels of defense assistance to Israel.

Among the 13 freshmen, 11 have signed the letter initiated by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to the party’s Senate leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“As we work to reduce wasteful government spending, we recognize that providing for the national defense is a constitutional responsibility of the federal government,” said the letter, first reported Thursday by Politico. β€œTherefore, we must continue to prioritize the safety of our nation and the security of our allies, including Israel.”

A similar letter from U.S. House of Representatives’ GOP freshmen in February garnered 65 signatures in a class of 87. The appeals—and the support they garnered—is significant because it answers questions that pro-Israel groups had about the 2011 class of GOP freshmen, many of them spurred to office by the Tea Party movement, which has cost cutting as its central focus.

Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, visited Israel within weeks of his election in November.

The two freshmen who did not sign also are favorites of the Tea Party. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has called openly for cutting aid to Israel and for the bulk of foreign aid funding. The other freshman not to sign is Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

The letter is a sign that President Obama’s proposal to maintain levels of funding for Israel, currently at about $3 billion annually, will be untouched.