GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship

GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran MORE (R-Idaho) introduced legislation Wednesday to force the Trump administration to undergo a "comprehensive review" of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

"This legislation calls for a comprehensive review of U.S.-Saudi relations," Risch said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

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The bill requires the Trump administration to submit a report to Congress within 270 days that reviews the foreign policy goals of Saudi Arabia and if they align with the United States, the level of risk to the United States created by Saudi Arabia's actions and an evaluation of Saudi Arabia's record on human rights.

It would also deny or revoke visas to members of the Saudi royal family who serve in the Saudi government in positions equivalent to a deputy secretary or agency chief. But, the bill would let President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE waive that provision if he deems it's in the national interest.

Risch's bill comes as lawmakers have struggled to find legislation to address Saudi Arabia that could both pass Congress and win over the White House.

The Senate has passed resolutions this year to block Trump's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and force Trump to yank U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

But Trump vetoed the Yemen resolution and is expected to also veto the attempt to block the arms deal. Congress did not have the votes to override his Yemen veto, and will again not have the votes to override him on the arms deal.

On Yemen, Risch's legislation requires the administration to provide a briefing to lawmakers about the progress made toward ending the war and would slap sanctions on individuals who are knowingly blocking humanitarian aid.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has been a point of contention between Trump and lawmakers in the wake of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi embassy in Turkey last year.

“The U.S.-Saudi relationship has been going south for a long time,” Risch told The Washington Post. “The Khashoggi event shocked a lot of people and brought a lot of people to the realization that the Saudis were not in tandem with us as they had been in the past.”

“The objective here is to maintain the relationship and at the same time bring [the Saudis] to the realization and change of conduct that needs to be done if the relationship is to be continued,” Risch added. “It can’t continue in the direction that it’s going. I have met with the Saudis and told them that they are only one Khashoggi-type of event away from having to find a new partner.”

Risch is expected to give his bill a markup in committee as soon as next week, where he'll need a majority to beat back a Democratic counterproposal and advance his bill to the full Senate.

In addition to Risch, Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCalifornia poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' MORE (R-Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections MORE (D-N.H.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsGrassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel Democratic senator: Attacks on Saudi oil refineries 'may call for military action against Iran' Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year MORE (D-Del.) are backing the legislation.

A majority of the panel is also backing legislation from Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R-Ind.) that includes automatic sanctions and a temporary suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Risch praised his colleagues on Wednesday, saying he "sought broad input" and that Democrats have been "very helpful in trying to craft legislation."

"[But] I urge us all to seek measured solutions to these difficult challenges and avoid inadvertently strengthening our adversaries or damaging our partners and allies," he said during Wednesday's committee hearing.

Updated: 12:19 p.m.