The Senate voted on Thursday to block billions of dollars of armaments to Saudi Arabia in what the New York Times described as a “sharp and bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress” by declaring an emergency over Iran.
In the first of a series of three back-to-back votes, Republicans joined Democrats to register their growing anger with the administration’s use of emergency power to cut lawmakers out of national security decisions, as well as the White House’s unflagging support for the Saudis despite congressional pressure to punish Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the killing last October of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. –NYT
The vote marks the sharpest division between the White House and lawmakers to date – and is the second time in recent months that the administration has faced bipartisan pushback against foreign policy. In April, both the House and Senate voted to cut off military assistance to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen under the 1973 War Powers Act, only for Trump to veto the measure (the second of his presidency).
And once again, Trump will use his veto power to override Congress:
While the Democratic-controlled House is also expected to block the sales, Mr. Trump has pledged to veto the legislation, and it is unlikely that either chamber could muster enough support to override the president’s veto. –NYT
“This vote is a vote for the powers of this institution to be able to continue to have a say on one of the most critical elements of U.S. foreign policy and national security,” said New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, lead sponsor of the resolutions of disapproval. “To not let that be undermined by some false emergency and to preserve that institutional right, regardless of who sits in the White House.”
22 pending arms sales to three Arab nations were announced in late May utilizing an emergency provision contained in the Arms Export Control Act. In total, $8.1 billion in munitions are part of the sales.
“If we let this emergency declaration go without protest, without a vote, I don’t know that we’re ever getting the power to oversee arms sales back as a body,” said Connecticut Democrat Sen. Christopher Murphy, another author of the resolution.
According to the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pushing hard for the emergency designation despite objections by career Foreign Service officers and legislators – who have argued that the sales would essentially help Saudi Arabia fight Iran and its partner Arab militias.
Some Republicans have endorsed the deals, however, arguing that rejecting the arms sales would have unintended consequences at a time when Iran tensions have escalated. Trump ally Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not one of them.
“While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored,” said Graham, adding “Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia. I am also very concerned about the precedent these arms sales would set by having the administration go around legitimate concerns of the Congress.”
Tulsi Gabbard was a bit more blunt in November…
Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First.”
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) November 21, 2018