Saudi arms sales may be at center of the next showdown between Trump and Congress

The Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia are facing stiff opposition in Congress. However, the power to veto means that the ball remains in President Trump’s court for now. Bipartisan opposition to President Trump’s cosy relationship with Saudi Arabia has been building for some time, stoked by the brazen –and, some say, state-backed– murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, and by Riyadh’s ongoing involvement in Yemen’s brutal civil war.Despite lawmakers from both parties calling Washington’s relationship with Riyadh into question, the Trump administration has pressed ahead with arms sales to the kingdom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced late last month that some $8 billion-worth of weaponry would be exported to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to counter the supposed threat posed by Iran – a move allowed without congressional sign-off in the event of an emergency.Also on Pompeo confirms $8.1bn arms sales to Arab nations without Congress approval to 'deter Iran'Congress is pushing back. On Wednesday, House Democrats will unveil four measures of disapproval, aimed at blocking the 22 deals announced by Pompeo. Three of these focus specifically on the sale of precision-guided munitions, like the GBU-12 bomb that killed 40 schoolchildren in Yemen last August. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will also grill a senior State Department official on the emergency declaration that allowed the deals to go through.Though these measures are likely to pass the Democrat-controlled House, getting them through the Republican-majority Senate will prove more difficult, as will President Trump’s power to veto any law that passes the upper house without a two-thirds majority. Still, a number of Senate Republicans and key Trump allies are prepared to break ranks with the president over the Saudi issue.A bipartisan group of Senators has managed to lock in enough votes to pass 22 disapproval measures of their own – one for each component of the weapons deal. All 47 Democrats are expected to support the resolution, meaning only four Republicans need to break ranks to pass it. Republican Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), Todd Young (Indiana) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) signed on as sponsors last week, while Mike Lee (Utah) agreed to sign on Tuesday.Out of the four lawmakers, Graham’s support is most significant. Initially a ‘never Trump’ Republican, Graham has become one of Trump’s most loyal supporters in the Senate over the last year. “The fact that Lindsey is leading the resolution tells you that things are shifting inside the Republican caucus,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) said last week.The disapproval mot ...Read more

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