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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 TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' 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 CollinsMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks Biden reignites war powers fight with Syria strike Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (Kansas), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date MORE (Alaska) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Overnight Defense: DC Guard chief testifies about hampered Capitol attack response | US contractor dies of heart attack after Iraq rocket attack | Pentagon watchdog finds 'inappropriate conduct' by ex-White House doctor Biden reignites war powers fight with Syria strike MORE (Ind.) voted with Democrats to override each of the three vetoes. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal 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) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration 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 RischJim Elroy RischMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' Biden to redirect .4M in aid to Myanmar, sanction key military figures 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.