A new effort is underway in the Senate to stop the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, according to Politico. After past efforts to curtail the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia failed, the new bipartisan push will exploit a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act, which will request a report on the kingdom’s human rights record (it’s not good). From there, it’s possible that a vote could be triggered that would end arms sales to the kingdom.
“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight,” Republican Sen. Todd Young said in a statement. “This bipartisan resolution simply asks the secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention, and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy is the other sponsor of the resolution. Both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee.
The first step for this resolution is going through committee. Aides told Politico they predict it has enough support to move forward. But even if the resolution passes the Senate, it can be vetoed by President Trump, as other efforts to curtail military aid to Saudi Arabia have been.
The State Department is trying to argue that the sales are somehow necessary.
A State Department spokesperson said the agency has followed the law by invoking its emergency authority to proceed with the transfers and that the move was “needed to help our partners better defend themselves and to reinforce recent changes to U.S. posture in the region to deter Iran.” The arms sales are moving forward, the person said.
“Delaying these shipments could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” the official said. “We intend for this determination to be a one-time event. This specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress.”
Murphy says he wants the resolution to act as a referendum on the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a whole, which has suffered since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by people linked to top Saudi Arabian officials the brutal humanitarian crisis created by Saudi intervention in Yemen.
“The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’ role in foreign policy making,” Murphy said in a statement.
There’s also another effort underway, led by Sens. Bob Menendez and Lindsay Graham, to stop 22 recent arms sales to the kingdom.
To get around the opposition from Congress, secretary of state Mike Pompeo told lawmakers that Trump will declare a national emergency in order to continue the sales. Works every time!