Dem spending bill would block funds to support nuclear sales to Saudis

Dem spending bill would block funds to support nuclear sales to Saudis

A spending bill released Thursday by House Democrats would restrict the Trump administration from selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

“None of the funds appropriated by this act should be used to support the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” the draft bill text reads.

The provision was included in the House Appropriation Committee’s bill to fund the State Department and foreign operations for fiscal 2020.

Overall, the bill would provide $56.4 billion for the State Department and foreign operations, casting aside President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE's request to slash spending at State by 21 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT

The inclusion of the Saudi provision comes as the administration has been trying to negotiate what’s known as a 123 agreement with the Saudis to allow U.S. companies to sell nuclear reactors to the kingdom.

"Given the administration’s failure to share important information about these activities with Congress, we included this provision to prevent the administration from selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia," a House Democratic aide told The Hill. "We hope this will force much-needed transparency on this issue."

The Trump administration argues a nuclear energy deal with Saudi Arabia is necessary because the nation will turn to other countries, leaving U.S. businesses in the lurch and doing nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned because Riyadh has resisted the “gold standard” — prohibitions on enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium, which are essential steps in producing nuclear weapons.

And even as the 123 agreement remains under negotiation, Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryAmazon taps Trump ally to lobby amid Pentagon cloud-computing contract fight How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week MORE approved seven so-called Part 810 authorizations that allow U.S. companies to share certain unclassified nuclear energy technology with Saudi Arabia.

Democrats accused the administration of using the Part 810 authorizations to circumvent Congress, which has statutory authority to review and potentially block 123 agreements.

The Department of Energy holds that 810 authorizations and 123 agreements are "are two distinct and different processes based on two separate sections of the Atomic Energy Act,” with Perry telling lawmakers approving Part 810 authorizations is “something that goes on every day.”

Congress has also been seething over the Saudis’ killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

That anger, combined with concern over civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, led Congress to pass a resolution this year that would have ended U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Trump vetoed the resolution, and the Senate did not have the two-thirds majority required to override.

Updated at 2:31 p.m.