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US Congress moves to challenge Trump over weapons sale to Saudi

June 10, 2019 at 2:17 pm

The US Capitol is seen from the observation deck of the Old Post Office Tower 11 January 2019 in Washington, DC. [Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

A bipartisan move to block US President Donald Trump from circumventing a long-standing precedent that allows lawmakers to review major weapons sales is underway. Two senators – Republican Todd Young and Democrat Chris Murphy – both of whom sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, are planning to introduce a bill today designed to force a vote on current and future US arms sales and other military support to Saudi Arabia.

The Bill appears to be the first in a series of proposed resolutions announced last week that would require votes on each of the arms sales that make up the $8.1 billion weapons package to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, which was announced by the Trump admiration in May.

Trump circumvented Congress by declaring a national emergency on the grounds of a security threat from Iran. He swept aside objections from US lawmakers to complete the sale of arms to his Gulf allies and instigated a tug of war over who has the final say in such matters. Members of Congress, angry about the huge civilian toll from Saudi’s air campaign in Yemen, as well as human rights abuses such as the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey, had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to the kingdom and the UAE for months.

The decision is reported to have angered members of both parties, who worried that Trump’s laissez-faire attitude would eliminate Congress’ ability to prevent not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

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“The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’ role in foreign policy-making,” Murphy said in a statement reported by NBC News.

Young said that “this bipartisan resolution simply asks the Secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention and we cannot permit US military equipment to worsen the situation on the ground.”

This bill is the latest tug of war between US lawmakers and President Trump, whose authoritarian style of government has put him at odds with members of Congress. This characteristic of Trump’s reign has been a major talking point. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, Trump has issued 91 executive orders, significantly higher than his predecessors. Trump is also said to have used his executive privilege to take bold stands in foreign policy that diverge, in some cases sharply, from the consensus of the policymaking community.

One Middle East analysts has said that American nervousness over arms sale to Saudi is also due to pro-Israeli members of the Congress who are anxious about helping the kingdom build sophisticated weapons systems that could one day rival the Zionist state.