Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales

Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would restrict the president’s ability to approve emergency sales without a congressional review period.

The bill advanced by voice vote with some Republicans expressing opposition to the legislation.

The bill, dubbed the Saudi Arabia False Emergencies (SAFE) Act, comes as a response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE’s decision to use the emergency provision of the Arms Export Control Act in an attempt to muscle through 22 arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies without the typical congressional review period.

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“This bipartisan bill directly addresses these abuses by restricting these emergency authorities to only our closest security treaty allies and security partner countries,” said Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.), the committee’s ranking member and sponsor of the bill.

"These changes do not affect the 22 sales, which we dealt with by the resolutions of disapproval last week. But it will hopefully prevent us being faced with future uses of this nature, regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat is occupying the White House," he added.

Despite advancing out of the Foreign Relations Committee, the bill faces an uphill climb to get a floor vote without the support of the committee's chairman, Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran GOP senators say Trump deserves compatible national security adviser after Bolton firing Trump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan MORE (R-Idaho), and Republican leadership.

Under normal procedures, the arms sale law requires a 30-day congressional review period before a sale is finalized.

But citing threats from Iran, the administration invoked a provision of the law allowing sales to go through immediately in emergency cases for the 22 sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Still, last week, the Senate approved resolutions to the block the deals. A resolution that would block two sales passed 53-45, while another that would block the other 20 sales passed 51-45.

The House is expected to follow suit, but Trump is expected to veto the resolutions, and neither chamber is expected to have enough votes to overturn the veto.

As part of the deal to bring the arms sale resolutions to a vote, Risch agreed to hold the markup on the SAFE Act as well as another markup on a separate piece of Saudi Arabia legislation expected after the July Fourth break.

Menendez’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' Liz Cheney says world is more stable, 'safer' under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (R-Ky.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyThis week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran MORE (D-Conn.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections MORE (D-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (R-Utah), would specifically limit emergency arms sales to NATO allies and Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Additionally, an emergency could be declared only to respond to a physical threat and if 75 percent of the weapons are available to deliver within two months.

Lawmakers in both parties oppose the arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of its conduct in the Yemen civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition has been blamed for the majority of civilian deaths, and the Saudi regime’s killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

“The president wanted to give arms to Saudi Arabia, and most of us didn’t because the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia did something so outrageous it was even hard for me to ignore it. It was clearly not in line with appreciating the relationship, so what we’re trying to do is say these are the folks that we have confidence in,” Graham said. “The reason we’re doing this bill is because the administration wanted to give Saudi Arabia weapons and we did not.”

Risch said at the top of the markup that he opposed the bill, though he said he “understand[s] the motivation.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration MORE (R-Utah) also expressed opposition because it leaves out other partner countries such as Ukraine and Taiwan.

“If I were Taiwanese and this became a law,” Romney said, “I would say, ‘How come America’s not willing to send us weaponry … and why are we treated differently than four countries?’”