Senate rejects attempt to block Biden’s Saudi arms sale

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The Senate on Tuesday night rejected a bipartisan effort to block President Biden’s $650 billion arms sale to the Saudi government.

Senators voted 30-67 on the resolution from Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) falling short of the simple majority needed to overcome the procedural hurdle. 

Supporters of the resolution pushed to block the arms sale, which includes 280 air-to-air missiles made by Raytheon Technologies, due to Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s civil war, including an air and naval blockade of Yemen.

“The U.S. should end all arms sales to the Saudis until they end their blockade of Yemen. President Biden said he would change the Trump policy of supporting Saudi’s war in Yemen, but it’s not at all that apparent that policy has changed,” Paul said ahead of the vote. 

Sanders — who quipped that he found himself in the “somewhat uncomfortable and unusual position” of agreeing with Paul — added that the United States should “not be rewarding” Saudi Arabia with military arms. 

“We should demand that they end the devastating war in Yemen. …It is long past time that we took a very hard look at our relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country whose government represents the very opposite of what we process to believe,” he said.

But the vote split Democrats, with 28 voting to advance the resolution. Every Republican senator besides Lee and Paul voted against the resolution.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted against the resolution, argued that senators should be “wary of turning our backs on long-time partners.”

“Here’s what our colleagues’ resolution would actually do; it would give the world yet another reason to doubt the resolve of the United States of America,” he said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) added that he was opposing the sale because “it’s important that our security partners know that we will uphold our commitments and prioritize security arrangements that protect civilians.”

The White House also pushed back on the resolution, saying in a statement of policy that it “strongly opposes” the measure.

“The FMS case at issue is fully consistent with the Administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end conflict in Yemen and end U.S. support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, while also ensuring that Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks,” the White House said.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has been a source of years-long frustration in Congress. The Senate previously blocked a Saudi arms sale under then-President Trump but failed to override his veto.
Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Joe Biden Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Robert Menendez
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