Seven senators plan to introduce over 20 separate resolutions to disapprove of President Trump’s recent approval of arms sales to two Middle Eastern countries, which subverted the congressional review process for such sales, while members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee plan similar resolutions in the lower chamber.
Seven senators, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), announced June 5 in a release that they plan to introduce 22 separate Joint Resolutions of Disapproval – one for every separate arms sale going to the two countries – on the Senate floor.
The announcement follows the Trump administration’s decision May 24 to declare an emergency waiver for the congressional review process currently instated for the arms sales, worth about $8.1 billion (Defense Daily, May 28). The waiver also included arms sales to Jordan, but the country was not named in the senators’ release Wednesday.
The lawmakers called the manner in which the administration declared the emergency authority “unprecedented” and “at odds with longstanding practice and cooperation between the Congress and the executive branch that results in the approval of billions of dollars of arms sales annually.” Menendez is joined by fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) as well as Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
In the statement, Menendez called the emergency waiver, which was declared by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “yet another example of an end-run around Congress and a disregard for human rights.”
“The best thing the Secretary of State can do right now is withdraw his emergency certification, immediately submit these sales for the normal Congressional review and engage with Senators to address our concerns,” he continued. “Failing that, I am prepared to move forward with any and all options to nullify the licenses at issue for both Saudi Arabia and UAE and eliminate any ability for the Administration to bypass Congress in future arms sales.”
Graham, who has served as a close adviser to Trump, said in the statement that the behavior of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “cannot be ignored” and “Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia.” Graham co-signed the bipartisan Saudi Arabia and Yemen Act of 2018, which senators introduced last November to ban arms sales and other defense-related support to Saudi Arabia following the October 2018 murder of Washington Post author and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, and reports tying Riyadh to bombings of civilians in Yemen (Defense Daily, Nov. 20, 2018).
Graham added that he is also “very concerned about the precedent these arms sales would set by having the administration go around legitimate concerns of the Congress. I expect and look forward to strong bipartisan support for these resolutions of disapproval.”
Murphy, an outspoken opponent of the U.S. military’s participation in the Saudi proxy war with Iran in Yemen, said in the statement that “Selling more bombs to the Saudis simply means that the famine and cholera outbreak in Yemen will get worse, Iran will get stronger, and Al Qaeda and ISIS will continue to flourish amidst the chaos of the civil war.”
“The U.S.-Saudi relationship needs to change, and it’s clear that only Congress can make that happen,” he added.
Paul reiterated the need for Congress to rise “in a bipartisan fashion to send a loud message against this administration sending more arms unilaterally to the Kingdom.”
Leahy stated: “This administration’s credibility when it comes to arms sales, human rights, and the rule of law is in tatters. By introducing resolutions of disapproval, Republicans and Democrats are standing together in support of a process of consultation that has worked well for decades, regardless of which party controls the White House.”
Young highlighted Congress’ oversight role in the statement and noted that the current threats from Iran “do not justify taking this dramatic step.”
“In light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, we have an obligation to ensure the adequate guardrails are in place and that weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not exacerbate the conflict,” he added.
Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), announced Wednesday afternoon that it would similarly demand answers from Trump administration officials regarding the emergency waiver.
All Democratic members issued a joint statement calling on Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper to testify before the committee in an open hearing on the subject.
“We have reviewed the Administration’s explanation of the so-called ’emergency’ in the Middle East that required circumventing Congressional oversight, and their case is utterly without merit,” the statement said. “It cannot stand.”