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Senators make bipartisan push to block $650M weapons sale to Saudis

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asks questions about FISA and Crossfire Hurricane during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss security threats 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.
Greg Nash

Three senators on Thursday made a bipartisan push aimed at blocking a proposed $650 million weapons sale to Saudi Arabia.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a joint resolution disapproving of the proposed arms sale to the Middle Eastern country, pointing to its role in Yemen’s civil war.

The joint resolution seeks to block the sale of items and services including 280 air-to-air missiles, 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers, containers, support equipment, spare and repair parts and logistical support services. 

“A message needs to be sent to Saudi Arabia that we don’t approve of their war with Yemen,” Paul said in a statement. “By participating in this sale, we would not only be rewarding reprehensible behavior, but also exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I urge Congress and the Biden Administration to consider the possible consequences of this sale that could accelerate an arms race in the Middle East and jeopardize the security of our military technologies.” 

“As the Saudi government continues to wage its devastating war in Yemen and repress its own people, we should not be rewarding them with more arms sales,” Sanders said in a statement.

Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced her own joint resolution aimed at blocking the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, citing the same reasoning. 

“It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery,” Omar said in a statement.

The State Department approved this $650 million weapons sale, the first major arms deal made with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s presidency, earlier this month.

While President Biden cut off U.S. support for Saudi-led operations in Yemen’s civil war, he has been criticized by Democrats and activists for not doing more to punish civil rights abuses in the kingdom, including the 2018 killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Hill has reached out to the White House and the U.S. Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., for comment.

Tags arms deal Bernie Sanders Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Mike Lee Rand Paul Saudi Arabia

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