Senate rejects effort to block Trump’s Qatar, Bahrain arms sales

Greg Nash

The Senate rejected an effort on Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to block President Trump’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.

{mosads}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 Menendez (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 McConnell (Ky.), Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (Okla.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (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 Cotton (R-Ark.) added that voting for the resolutions to block the arms sales would “embolden our adversaries.” 

“Make no mistake, the ayatollah, Vladimir Putin 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.” 

Tags arms sale Bob Menendez Donald Trump Jim Inhofe Jim Risch Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Tom Cotton Vladimir Putin
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