Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale

The Senate on Monday failed to override President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE's vetoes of resolutions blocking his arms deal with Saudi Arabia, marking the latest setback for critics of Riyadh.

Senators voted 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41 on the override attempts, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to nix Trump’s veto. 

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill MORE (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (Alaska) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Statesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says he is fighting testimony to protect presidency MORE (Ind.) voted with Democrats to override each of the three vetoes. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip MORE (R-S.C.), who missed the first two votes, joined them to support overriding the third. 

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The Senate’s votes come after Trump vetoed the arms sale resolutions last week, arguing that the congressional effort “would weaken America's global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners.”

Trump in June publicly announced the arms deal, estimated to be worth more than $8 billion, using an “emergency” provision in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to bypass the 30-day congressional notification requirement.

The administration has argued the emergency declaration was justified based on what it described as heightened threats from Iran and said a better use of Congress’s time would be to try to help negotiate an end to the years-long Yemen civil war.

It was backed up by most Republicans, who are wary of damaging the U.S.-Saudi relationship despite frustration over the Yemen war and the death of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

“From the start this administration has failed to demonstrate what kind of national security threat or ‘emergency’ from Iran warranted fast-tracking this sale of arms,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSaagar Enjeti says Corbyn's defeat in UK election represents 'dire warning' for Democrats Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (D-N.J.), adding that “it’s clear the administration has other motives from the start.”

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The 22 arms sales would provide weapons to Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. The vetoes on the arms deal are the third, fourth and fifth Trump has had to issue since the beginning of his administration. All of his five vetoes have taken place this year.

Under the AECA, lawmakers can block an arms sale with only a simple majority instead of the 60 votes normally needed to pass legislation in the Senate.

But Monday’s override attempts were viewed as a long shot after the resolutions passed the Senate for the first time with 51 and 53 votes — well short of the 67 needed to override Trump. The failure in the Senate nixes the House’s ability to try to override Trump’s veto, though it were also expected to fall short of the two-thirds requirement.

The setback comes as frustration with the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been a perennial sticking point between Trump and Congress, including traditional GOP allies. Trump’s decision to bypass the notification requirement for his arms deal infuriated lawmakers, who had been using an informal process for more than a year to try to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Congress previously tried and failed to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia. One attempt in 2016 garnered support from 27 senators, while a June 2017 vote narrowly fell short with 47 votes.

Congress passed a separate resolution earlier this year forcing Trump to remove troops in or affecting Yemen unless they were fighting al Qaeda; Trump vetoed the resolution.

Broader efforts to crack down on Riyadh or to force the Trump administration into taking a tougher stance have hit a wall in Congress.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation, despite opposition from Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (R-Idaho), that would temporarily suspend arms sales and slap sanctions on the Saudi royal family. Democrats also succeeded in adding similar language to a Saudi bill sponsored by Risch, but the GOP senator yanked his legislation.

Risch told reporters after the committee business meeting that Menendez’s bill would not get a vote on the Senate floor and that the Senate had effectively closed the door to taking action on Saudi Arabia.

"The objective was to give the committee the alternative of either doing something where they could participate in the formulation of foreign policy or set that aside and just do messaging," Risch said. "They chose to do the messaging … but that cedes the formation of policy totally to the second branch of government."

—Updated at 7:03 p.m.