Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale
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The Senate on Monday failed to override President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat 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 CollinsBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress set for clash over surveillance reforms The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump budget includes proposal for US Consulate in Greenland Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (Alaska) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRepublican Senate campaign arm hauled in over million in January The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (Ind.) voted with Democrats to override each of the three vetoes. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Five things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal 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) MenendezMenendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle 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 RischGOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements 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.