Senate gears up for fight on Trump’s $110B Saudi Arabia arms sale

Greg Nash

The Senate is heading toward a fight over President Trump’s $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. 

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced a joint resolution of disapproval on Thursday on a small part of the deal that was signed by Trump during his recent visit to Riyadh. 
The move tees up a vote in early June after the Senate returns from a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
{mosads}The bipartisan trio has to wait 10 calendar days before they can bring their measure up on the Senate floor using a frequently overlooked provision of the Arms Export Control Act. 
A similar push from the three senators and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was overwhelmingly rejected last year. 
While Murphy couldn’t guarantee that their new bill would pass, he told reporters on Thursday that they would have “significantly more support.” 
“In part because of the humanitarian crisis is worse, a political solution is further away,” he said.
But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, predicted that the push to block the sale would fall short. 
“I think it probably goes the way of the other [resolutions]. I think most of the people on the committee and in the Senate support those sales,” he told reporters. 
The senators want to block the proposed sale of equipment and weapons systems used by the Royal Saudi Air Force, according to their resolution. Murphy told reporters that their resolution would only apply to a “fraction” of the $110 billion sale. 
The senators are objecting to the sale because they believe selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will only worsen the war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition supporting the ousted government. 
The Guardian reported last year that one-third of Saudi bombings hit civilian sites in Yemen, though the Saudi government disputed the claim as “vastly exaggerated.” 
Murphy warned that the ongoing conflict, and the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, is leading to Yemenis “being radicalized against the United States.” 
“The war inside Yemen is a national security nightmare for the United States,” he told reporters. “[These weapons] will be used to increase the humanitarian catastrophe that exists on the ground in Yemen.” 
Paul added that a debate on the resolution of disapproval would allow Congress to “have an overall discussion about the Middle East.” 
But Corker countered that he has seen “no indication of purposeful civilian casualties” by Saudi Arabia and that lawmakers have been telling the Saudi government privately that it needs to do better. 
“I think we’ve all been doing that, okay, there have been all kind of back channel conversations relative to those issues. We had a very blunt meeting with the foreign minister recently on this very topic. I mean very very blunt I might add,” he told reporters, when asked if Congress could pressure Saudi Arabia. 
Tags Al Franken Bob Corker Chris Murphy Mike Lee Rand Paul
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