Senate

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. 
 
{mosads}Senators voted 71-27 on a procedural move by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to set aside the resolution of disapproval, effectively killing it. 
 
Supporters of the resolution — spearheaded by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Al Franken (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.” 
 
The push was opposed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, on the Foreign Relations Committee. 
 
Sen. Lindsey Graham (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.” 
Tags Al Franken Ben Cardin Bob Corker Chris Murphy Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rand Paul

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