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 says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? Trump wishes 'Happy Father's Day to all,' including 'worst and most vicious critics' MORE (S.C.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 LeeHillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account On The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell 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 CollinsOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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) MoranOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 MurphyOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Democrats aim to block defense money from being used on Trump border wall 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 RubioOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 GardnerDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 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 RomneyThe Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 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 McConnellJon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Jon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Tensions with Iran reach new stage over uranium threat 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 Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  The case for congressional pay raises 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.”