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 RischJim Elroy RischDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Bipartisan senators call for Biden to confront Moscow over staffing ban at US embassies 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 TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money 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 RubioDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Tim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter MORE (R-Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers call for more resources to support early cancer detection MORE (D-N.H.) and Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Who is afraid of the EU's carbon border adjustment plan? MORE (D-Del.) are backing the legislation.

A majority of the panel is also backing legislation from Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden Rand Paul blocks quick vote on House-passed B Iron Dome funding MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe unseen problems in Afghanistan How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama 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.