The Senate rejected an effort on Thursday by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) to block President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE's arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar.
Senators voted 43-56 on discharging a resolution to block the Bahrain arms sale out of the Foreign Relations Committee. They voted 42-57 on moving the Qatar arms deal out of the committee, with both falling short of the simple majority needed to bring the resolutions to the Senate floor.
Paul's resolutions, if passed by Congress, would have blocked a $750 million sale to Bahrain of missiles and other equipment tied an aircraft fleet, and a $3 billion sale to Qatar of Apache attack helicopters and related equipment.
Paul argued ahead of the votes that it was "mistake to funnel arms into these century-old conflicts" and that the votes were about "the wisdom of proliferating arms in the Middle East."
"There is a great danger … if we keep funneling arms in there and fueling the arms race that the powder keg will blow up," he added.
Paul added that U.S. weapons that have been given to Qatar have, in turn, been sent "to our enemies and then we send soldiers to the Middle East to fight against our own weapons."
Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he supported the arms sales but was voting to move the resolutions out of the panel because he supported Paul's "right to seek full consideration of them by the Senate."
"Reviewing and approving arms sales across the world is a core function of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is an integral exercise of congressional oversight of the executive branch, and it is legally mandated," Menendez added.
But top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (Ky.), Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePowell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Senators slam Pentagon officials Generals contradict Biden, say they advised leaving troops in Afghanistan MORE (Okla.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischState watchdog to launch review of Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (Idaho), spoke out against the resolutions ahead of the votes.
Inhofe said frustrations over Saudi Arabia were a separate issue and that the two votes on Thursday were about keeping commitments to U.S. allies.
"Through these arms sales we can improve operations … and help our partners defend themselves and American troops in the region," Inhofe said. "And I really get concerned when things like this come up because what does the rest of the world say when we treat our allies this way and we renege on a commitment we've made?"
Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ark.) added that voting for the resolutions to block the arms sales would "embolden our adversaries."
"Make no mistake, the ayatollah, Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Hot mic catches Queen criticizing 'irritating' climate inaction Putin directs sexist remark at US anchor Navalny, Afghan women among those under consideration for EU human rights prize MORE and Xi Jinping are watching these votes," he added. "For those of you undecided, I would ask you to consider how those men would want you to vote."