Democrats and Republicans have launched a bipartisan Senate effort to block the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Politico reports.
Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Indiana Republican Todd Young will use a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to request a report from the Trump administration related to their arms sales to the Saudis, which could trigger a vote to stop the sales that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is moving ahead with despite opposition from both parties.
“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight,” Young said, according to Politico. “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.”
The resolution must first be approved by the Foreign Relations Committee before going to the full Senate. Aides on the committee told Politico there is enough support for the legislation to pass, but added that it can be vetoed by the president.
Senators concerned over Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia:
The move comes as the Senate has repeatedly voted to condemn Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s civil war and its killing of a Saudi Washington Post journalist last year. Murphy said that the Trump “administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis — turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic-missile program to expand.”
“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 added.
Trump administration declared an emergency to get around Senate opposition:
“The move runs parallel to an effort led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to block 22 recent arms sales, an effort which is supported by both Murphy and Young. Despite congressional resistance, Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration is declaring an emergency to move forward with those sales,” Politico reported.
The State Department told the outlet it still plans to go ahead with the sales, arguing they are “needed to help our partners better defend themselves and to reinforce recent changes to U.S. posture in the region to deter Iran."
"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," a State Department 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."