Having reached a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate will vote on Thursday on legislation that would block President Trump from using a declaration of a state of emergency to sidestep Congressional oversight on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The bill would cover approximately $8 billion in arms sales. There has been substantial opposition within the Senate to arms sales to the Saudis, given both war crimes in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump has defended the arms sales, and seemed to believe that a fake claim of emergency would be enough to prevent Congress from getting involved.
The attempt to dodge Congress seems to have just added to resistance to the arms sales, and a new UN report on the Khashoggi murder, once again pointing the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince, seems certain to bolster the vote against selling any more arms to him.
Resistance to the arms sales has been growing substantially in both parties, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a long-time supporter of such sales, now among the leading critics of Trump’s efforts to push through the arms, saying “no amount of oil” would be enough to convince him to back away from these votes.
The agreement to have a vote came after Senators introduced 22 separate bills opposing all 22 of the “emergency” sales separately. Though emergency declarations were meant to allow for rush shipments without a 30-day period for Congress to weigh in, it’s not clear if any of those sales have gone through since the declaration, and indeed a big point of criticism of the tactic was that many of the deals aren’t expected to be finalized for months, meaning there is no reason Congress wouldn’t have time to vote on them.
The problem wasn’t that Congress didn’t have time, of course, but that Trump was very aware that votes on arms sales are getting closer and closer, and there is a very real possibility that they are going to start voting down some of these sales. That’s going to force Trump into some embarrassing vetoes, and potentially Congress even overriding some of them.
Trump likely isn’t ready to start losing arms sales to Congressional objections, which is why the administration is arguing hard that the arms are for “self defense,” even though they are plainly for continuing to attack Yemen. The argument is also being pushed that if the Saudis don’t buy from the US they’ll buy from China and Russia, even though analysts say neither of those nations has anywhere near the excess capacity to meet a slew of new Saudi orders even if they were so inclined.
Those wishing to contact their Senators before the Thursday vote can find contact information here. Tell them to oppose all US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.