Senate rejects push to block Saudi arms sale
© Greg Nash
The Senate on Wednesday easily rejected a motion to block the $1.15 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia as lawmakers gear up for a separate fight with the White House over the country. 
Supporters of the resolution — spearheaded by Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Overnight Defense: Iran seizes British tanker in latest escalation | US, UK to discuss situation | Trump says 'no doubt' US downed Iranian drone after Tehran's denials | Pentagon's No. 2 policy official to leave | Lawmakers worry about Defense vacancies MORE (R-Ky.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Health care moves to center stage in Democratic primary fight MORE (D-Conn.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' MORE (R-Utah) and Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Al Franken: It's time to start taking Trump 'literally' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs MORE (D-Minn.) — would have needed 60 senators to vote against McConnell's motion to keep the resolution alive. 
The State Department approved the sale of tanks and related equipment last month. A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis, Iran-backed Shiite rebels, in Yemen. 
Supporters of the resolution are concerned the the equipment will be used in missions to kill civilians and worsen the country's humanitarian crisis.
Lee, noting that Saudi Arabia has been an ally in an unstable region, said the deal shouldn't "take effect without so much as a whimper from members of Congress who might feel the need to raise possible concerns." 
Wednesday's vote comes in the shadow of a standoff over separate legislation that would let families of Sept. 11 terror attack victims sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. court. President Obama has pledged to veto the bill, and the Senate is expected to vote on an override next week.
Murphy said it was "unfortunate" that the two bills are being taken up at the same time. 
However, he acknowledged that those opposing the military sale faced an uphill fight regardless of timing, saying, "I knew from the beginning that this was not becoming law." 
"I think there are a lot of people who will vote to override the [Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act] veto and then vote against our resolution as a means of balancing their votes," he said. 
Murphy and his colleagues ran into a fresh round of opposition this week, with McConnell saying Tuesday that he will "aggressively" oppose the resolution of disapproval. 
He added Wednesday that it would "harm our nation's long-term strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East." 
"The resolution would also ignore the shared interests we have with Saudi Arabia in combatting al Qaeda and [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria]," McConnell said. "It would further convince the world that the United States is retreating ... from its commitments." 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE (R-S.C.), also a member of the committee, said Wednesday that it would be "ass-backwards" to block the sale in the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement. 
But Murphy said that regardless of the failed vote, he hoped his colleagues would pay more attention the war inside Yemen, which he said had been a "quiet" war. 
"I also think there's very few of my colleagues who had given much thought to the war in Yemen," he said. 
"They may not be prepared to take a bigger step like stopping an arms sale, but maybe after today there's going to be a lot more senators that are willing to think about other ways in which we can reset the war inside Yemen."