Senators Hope to Force Vote on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Senators object to Trump's use of loophole to skirt oversight

President Trump’s hope to circumvent Senate oversight with an emergency declaration on arms sales to Saudi Arabia appears to have backfired. If anything, this effort seems to have drawn even more attention to the planned sales, and fueled even more Senate objections.

Now, in addition to 22 resolutions objecting to the sales, the Senate is introducing a new bill on Monday aimed to force a vote on all security aid to Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, and conditioning them on a Congressional review of Saudi human rights issues.

Trump aimed to bypass oversight on $8.1 billion in sales, knowing they would face objections, by claiming an “emergency” that meant it couldn’t wait for Congress to vote. Since the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, there has been discomfort with arms sales to the Saudis. Trump has objected to this additional resistance, arguing that the sales are worth a lot of money.

That, and Trump’s cynical attempts to skirt oversight, are fueling bipartisan opposition, with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Todd Young (R-IN) all squarely on the side of blocking the arms sales now. Graham has predicted more support is coming, and with broad support on the other side of the aisle it wouldn’t take a lot more backing to stop the deals.

This new bill on oversight of the Saudis, if passed in the Senate, would move on to the House, where passage would be all but assured. This is likely to mean another Trump veto on the Saudis’ behalf,

Other potential obstacle is the Senate leadership, which has often tried to spare Trump from embarrassing vetoes with dubious interpretations of the rules. Though legally a resolution of disapproval under the Arms Export Control Act is privileged, and therefore the Senators can insist on getting a vote, this has never previously been attempted after a president claimed a state of emergency, and its likely at least some leaders will argue that the emergency somehow changes things.

This is a risky proposition though, since even the declaration of emergency was wildly controversial. Trump argued Iran, in and of itself, amounts to an emergency situation, even though it is not readily apparent that anything with respect to Iran has changed, and the Saudi arms are for attacking Yemen, not Iran.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.