Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale

Senators have locked in the votes needed for an initial move to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE’s Saudi arms sales, paving the way for a high-stakes veto showdown.

The Senate is expected to take up the 22 resolutions of disapproval as soon as next week, to block each of the sales, after Trump invoked an emergency provision under the Arms Export Control Act to push through the sales without a congressional review period.

Because lawmakers are challenging the sales under the same law, they need only a simple majority to send the resolutions to the president.

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With all 47 members of the Democratic caucus expected to support the resolutions, they needed to win over at least four Senate Republicans to have the simple majority needed to send the resolution to the House, where Democrats have pledged to follow suit with blocking the sales.

Three GOP senators — Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales MORE (Ky.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE (S.C.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC MORE (Ind.) — signed on as sponsors when the resolutions were rolled out last week. A spokesman on Tuesday confirmed that Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Utah) has signed on as a co-sponsor, giving Democrats their crucial fourth vote.

The unprecedented move to block the sales reflects growing frustration on Capitol Hill about the U.S.-Saudi relationship and would come after two votes fell short in recent years to block arms deals with Saudi Arabia. One, in 2016, garnered support from only 27 senators. The other, in June 2017, had the backing of 47 senators.

Since then, U.S.-Saudi relations have soured further amid growing concerns about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the years-long Yemen civil war and the death of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Democrats could also pick up Republican support in addition to the four votes they already have.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (Maine), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump throws support behind 'no brainer' measure to ban burning of American flag Trump throws support behind 'no brainer' measure to ban burning of American flag House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices MORE (Mont.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Klobuchar, Murkowski introduce legislation to protect consumer health data MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (Kan.), along with Young, Paul and Lee, each voted with Democrats on a resolution to end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. If each of them votes for the resolution of disapproval on the arms sales, that would give supporters at least eight Republican “yes” votes.

Collins said she is “inclined to” back the resolution of disapproval to block the sale to Saudi Arabia.

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“On the Saudi ones, my inclination, unless the language has changed, is to support the resolution indicating disapproval given that the administration has failed to produce a report on Khashoggi’s death,” Collins said. “And also I think Congress should be playing a role.”

Murkowski, meanwhile, said she hadn’t made a decision, while Daines said he is supporting the sale.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott Murphy It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (D-Conn.), part of the group sponsoring the resolutions, predicted that as many as 70 senators may vote to block Trump’s arms deal.

“We’ll be somewhere in between 55 and 70,” Murphy told The Hill on Tuesday.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared equally confident about the vote outcome.

“It’s just a question of process at this point,” he said.

Several GOP members of the Foreign Relations Committee have yet to say how they will vote.

“I have no problem with the sale of defensive weaponry. The problem I have is the process by which it was done, trying to get around the congressional role in it. I think it’s deeply problematic and it sets a terrible precedent,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Fla.), a senior member of the panel.

Asked what that meant for the arms sale votes, he said he’s “potentially supporting the resolution” but also wants to look at making broader changes to how the administration is able to use the “emergency” declaration to sidestep Congress.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Colo.) said he is talking with the administration about what effect the arms sales have on countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 'Landslide' for Biden? A look at 40 years of inaccurate presidential polls MORE (R-Utah), who has had high-profile moments of opposition to Trump, said that while he has concerns about the process, he supports the arms sales.

“I support the Saudi arms sale. I’m concerned about the process the administration has undertaken, and that’s something I’m taking a look at,” he said.

The 22 sales, which will also send weapons to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, include precision-guided bombs, Patriot missiles, mortar rounds, drones, fighter jet parts and other military support.

The administration has said there’s a heightened threat from Iran as its justification for invoking the emergency sales.

“These sales and the associated emergency certification are intended to address the military need of our partners in the face of an urgent regional threat posed by Iran; promote the vitality of our bilateral relationships by reassuring our partners; and preserve strategic advantage against near-peer competitors,” R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, will tell the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, according to excerpts released by the State Department.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will support the arms sales, but he acknowledged it would likely come to a veto-override vote, similar to the vote to pull troops from Yemen. Trump vetoed the Yemen resolution, and Congress was unable to override the veto.

“I’m as offended as everyone is by the behavior of the Saudis in the Khashoggi case. On the other hand, I think [not] fracturing the relationship we have with the Saudis, one of our best allies against our Iranian enemies, is important,” McConnell said. “I, for myself, am going to support the sale, and therefore I will be voting against the resolution of disapproval and for sustaining the veto when it comes back.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE’s (R-Calif.) office did not respond to a request for comment on his position regarding the arms sales.

But it’s unlikely that opponents of the arms sales will have enough votes to get the two-thirds necessary in each chamber to override an all-but-guaranteed Trump veto. If an override vote fails in the Senate, it would not be taken up in the House.

Graham said he expects a “good bipartisan vote,” but declined to tip his hand as to how many Republican senators he thinks he can bring with him.

“I don’t know, won’t know ’till we get there. But I think there’ll be strong bipartisan support,” he said when asked if he thought there would be enough support to override a veto.

Murphy added that he expects the administration will pull out all the stops to keep the Senate’s initial vote on blocking the arms sales below the 67-vote veto threshold.

“The administration will put the press on to make sure the number stays below 67,” he said. “I think we’ll have our work cut out for us to beat the administration.”