Defense

Senators plot 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sales

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A bipartisan group of senators plans to flood the Senate with 22 separate resolutions to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies that the Trump administration hoped to muscle through, they announced Wednesday.

Among the senators joining together to introduce the resolutions of disapproval is Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has split with the president over his support for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

{mosads}“While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored,” Graham said in a Wednesday statement. “I am also very concerned about the precedent these arms sales would set by having the Administration go around legitimate concerns of the Congress. I expect and look forward to strong bipartisan support for these resolutions of disapproval.”

The others introducing the resolutions are Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Rand Paul (R-Ky.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Todd Young (R-Ind.); and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Under normal procedures outlined in the Arms Export Control Act, lawmakers have 30 days to review and potentially block an arms sale once the administration formally notifies Congress about it.

But last month, the Trump administration notified Congress it was invoking a provision of that law allowing arms sales to go through immediately without the review period.

In doing so, the administration cited an alleged heighten threat from Iran to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the UAE then transferring some to Jordan.

The sales had been long stalled amid bipartisan opposition fueled by concern about civilian deaths caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in the Yemeni civil war. Opposition only grew after the Saudis killed U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul.

Despite the administration using emergency powers, Congress can still block the sales until the weapons are delivered.

The law also makes resolutions of disapproval privileged, meaning the senators can force a vote on them.

The administration has argued that using emergency powers on arms sales is not unprecedented. The emergency provision has been used four times before, with the Trump administration particularly highlighting when President Reagan did so in 1984 during the Iran-Iraq War after Iran attacked Saudi oil tankers.

But lawmakers opposed to the move argue that it is unprecedented to use the provision how the administration has, saying President Trump is attempting to circumvent Congress.

“The Trump administration’s effort to sell billions of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is yet another example of an end-run around Congress and a disregard for human rights,” Menendez said in a statement. “The best thing the secretary of State can do right now is withdraw his emergency certification, immediately submit these sales for the normal congressional review and engage with senators to address our concerns.

“Failing that, I am prepared to move forward with any and all options to nullify the licenses at issue for both Saudi Arabia and UAE and eliminate any ability for the administration to bypass Congress in future arms sales.”

Tags arms sales Bob Menendez Chris Murphy Donald Trump Iran Jack Reed Jordan Lindsey Graham Patrick Leahy Rand Paul Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia arms sales Todd Young United Arab Emirates

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