On May 24th, the Trump administration announced it was going through with 22 military deals worth $8.1 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. This comes as a response to the growing threat of Iran, and the emergency they feel is necessary.
However, if these go through without a fight, it would allow Trump to sidestep Congress’ review of the sale, a long-standing precedent that has been taken for any major weapon sales.
Trump has been pushing for these sales for the last several months, and so far, all have been blocked by Congress.
Many members are not willing to aid Saudi Arabia at this time due to their recent air campaign in Yemen that took a large number of civilian lives. They are also upset about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, who was killed in Turkey at a Saudi consulate.
Many agree the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, as well as other human rights’ abuses, even though his government denies such actions.
Therefore, Congress does not believe his behavior is to be trusted, especially with weapons of mass destruction such as mortars, precision-guided munitions, aircraft engines, and other equipment and services we can provide.
Republican Lindsey Graham says he understands Saudi Arabia is a “strategic ally” but “now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia.”
Members of both parties are worried that Trump’s recent action to dismiss congressional review will eliminate Congress from being able to have any say on future weapon sales from Trump or other administrations.
According to the Arms Export Control Act, Congress has the right to stop any significant weapons sales by passing a resolution of disapproval in both the House and the Senate.
Graham and other republican and democratic senators announced Wednesday they are trying to make a stand. Senator and ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, is leading this effort in which they will try to pass 22 individual joint resolutions to block these sales from going through without congressional review.
The idea of these 22 resolutions is to “protect and reaffirm Congress’ role of approving arms sales to foreign governments.” But Menendez also believes this will be a show of force, proving they will not “sit idly by” and allow their process to be further dismissed. This is how they can retaliate.
It is also believed the anger this emergency declaration has caused will give them the power (the two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate) needed to override a veto by Trump if need be.
“Strong bipartisan support” is expected by Graham and Menendez for these resolutions.
On Tuesday, it was reported that the US Senate was constructing their response to Trump’s declaration and that legislation could be filed within days. The House of Representatives likewise is also preparing a separate set of legislative responses.