Senate Moves to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE Despite Veto Threat
Should Congress block the arms sales?
The Senate on Thursday passed 22 resolutions that would block roughly $8 billion in arms sales involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite a veto threat from the Trump administration.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced the resolutions, which uses authority under the Arms Export Control Act to block the sales, to express concern with Saudi Arabia’s role in the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, its tactics fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, and the UAE’s provision of weapons to terror groups.
The group includes Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (NJ), Chris Murphy (CT), Patrick Leahy (VT), and Jack Reed (RI); and Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Rand Paul (KY), Todd Young (IN), and Mike Lee (UT).
“My relationship with Saudi Arabia is forever changed and will not go back to the way it used to be until Saudi Arabia changes its behavior & leadership,” Graham said on the Senate floor. Menendez said the votes would “send a global message you cannot kill journalists with impunity.”
The Senate took three votes, none of which reached the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto:
- S.J.Res. 36, which would block the coproduction and sale of guidance systems for laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, passed on a 53-45 vote with all Democrats voting with the above GOP senators plus Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Jerry Moran (KS) to block the sale. The White House said it’d veto the bill because it would improve the security of a friendly country and “help the Saudis mitigate the risk of civilian casualties.”
- S.J.Res. 38, which would block the sale of fusing systems for laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, passed with the same vote breakdown as the above (and also received a formal veto threat).
- The third vote was on the remaining 20 disapproval resolutions en bloc, and the bills passed 51-45 with a similar breakdown to the above, but with Murkowski voting no and Lee not voting. The White House’s veto threat covered all 20 of the resolutions and took note of the negative impact Congress blocking the arms sales on the defense capabilities of allies like Australia, India, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has indicated an interest in blocking the sales, so the resolutions will likely receive votes in the House in the near future despite the threatened vetoes.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: LH_Wong via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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