Senators move to block Trump admin's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

By Justin Doubleday / June 5, 2019 at 11:02 AM

A bipartisan group of senators announced today they will attempt to block the Trump administration's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

On May 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he was invoking emergency authority under the Arms Export Control Act allowing the State Department to forego the traditional congressional review process for 22 arms sales to the three Middle Eastern countries worth approximately $8.1 billion "to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity."

Today, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced he and other senators would file 22 separate joint resolutions of disapproval to block the arms sales.

"Regrettably, Secretary Pompeo's abuse of this emergency authority has broken the arms sales process," Menendez said. "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.  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."

Joining Menendez in the move are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Todd Young (R-IN) and Jack Reed (D-RI).

"While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored," Graham said. "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. I expect and look forward to strong bipartisan support for these resolutions of disapproval."

According to the Congressional Research Service, when such joint resolutions are filed, they will be referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will have 10 days to report back to the Senate its recommendations. The resolutions can then be discharged from the committee and forced to a vote on the Senate floor.

The 22 emergency sales involved $3.9 billion in foreign military sales, including RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicles, Javelin guided missiles, Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems, aircraft support and force training.

They additionally included approximately $2.2 billion in Direct Commercial Sales export licenses, as well as $2 billion in precision guided munitions sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE that Menendez held up due to concerns about civilian casualties in the Yemen conflict.