In a disappointing 71-27 vote today, the Senate voted to kill a bill that would’ve blocked the US from carrying out $1.15 billion in tank sales to Saudi Arabia. The bill had bipartisan authorship, but was overwhelmingly opposed by the leadership.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D – CT), one of the authors, said he never expected to pass the resolution anyhow, but hoped to press Saudi Arabia on its large civilian death toll in Yemen, saying that the Saudis clearly don’t want to see debate on the US-Saudi alliance on the floor of Congress.
Nor, it seems, did most of the leadership, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) saying the bill would mean the US retreating from its role as “guarantor of the international order,” and other hawks insisting that the Saudi alliance is far too important to allow the Yemen war crimes to interfere.
The tank sale was a comparatively tiny portion of over $100 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia throughout Obama’s presidency, but blocking it would’ve been seen as a significant sign that the Congress is growing uncomfortable with backing the Saudis on Yemen.
It is unclear how much Saudi Arabia lobbied on this bill, as it was not expected to pass either way, and substantial effort is currently ongoing to try to uphold an Obama veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in the lead-up to the attack. Both the Senate and House passed JASTA unanimously, but there is expected to be considerable numbers switching sides on the veto override vote.