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 TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' 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 PaulUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Overnight Defense: Iran seizes British tanker in latest escalation | US, UK to discuss situation | Trump says 'no doubt' US downed Iranian drone after Tehran's denials | Pentagon's No. 2 policy official to leave | Lawmakers worry about Defense vacancies MORE (Ky.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE (S.C.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHouse votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship 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 Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' 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 CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE (Maine), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTwo GOP lawmakers back Trump's comments on Democratic lawmakers: 'I'll pay for their tickets out of this country' Former Navy officer, teacher enters race to unseat GOP senator in Montana Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Mont.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranEpstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Bottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown 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 MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Health care moves to center stage in Democratic primary fight 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) MenendezDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors 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 RubioUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain 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 GardnerTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout 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 RomneyTrump steps up attacks on 'Squad' after post-rally furor Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite GOP rattled by Trump rally 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 McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants 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 Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' 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.”