A proposed arms deal to Saudi Arabia is likely to be shot down by the Senate now that four Republicans have come out publicly against it, setting up what could be a presidential veto battle.
Last month, the Trump administration sought to bypass Congress on a Saudi arms deal, saying the $7 billion in sales of Patriot missiles and other military weaponry and parts was necessary in an emergency situation to support Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan against threats from Iran, according to CBS News.
Although arms sales are usually approved by Congress, a president can claim an emergency exists and bypass lawmakers.
From the start, Democrats in Congress opposed the deal.
Now, some Republicans are also signaling their disenchantment with the proposal as votes on nearly two dozen resolutions of disapproval — one for each proposed arms sale — could come next week.
Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Mike Lee of Utah are all against the sales, The Hill reported.
Coupled with the expected 47 votes against the deals from Democrats, and the Senate now has enough votes to disapprove of the deals.
The Democrat-controlled House is likely to vote in favor of blocking the sales as well.
That would set up a potential presidential veto, which could only be overridden by a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine noted that the issue runs deeper than weaponry.
“On the Saudi ones, my inclination, unless the language has changed, is to support the resolution indicating disapproval given that the administration has failed to produce a report on Khashoggi’s death,” Collins said.
“And also I think Congress should be playing a role.”
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed in October in Turkey by Saudi agents.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that displeasure with the Saudis was not enough to block the sale.
“I’m as offended as everyone is by the behavior of the Saudis in the Khashoggi case. On the other hand, I think [not] fracturing the relationship we have with the Saudis, one of our best allies against our Iranian enemies, is important,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday.
“I, for myself, am going to support the sale, and therefore I will be voting against the resolution of disapproval and for sustaining the veto when it comes back.”
Utah Republican Mitt Romney expressed concern over the Trump administration’s actions to bypass Congress, but said he will support the arms sales.
“I support the Saudi arms sale. I’m concerned about the process the administration has undertaken, and that’s something I’m taking a look at,” Romney said.
Sen. Marco Rubio said the arms deal was fine, but not the way it was done.
“I have no problem with the sale of defensive weaponry. The problem I have is the process by which it was done, trying to get around the congressional role in it. I think it’s deeply problematic and it sets a terrible precedent,” the Florida Republican said.
In an effort to bolster support for the arms sales, R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, was scheduled to meet with the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday,
“These sales and the associated emergency certification are intended to address the military need of our partners in the face of an urgent regional threat posed by Iran; promote the vitality of our bilateral relationships by reassuring our partners; and preserve strategic advantage against near-peer competitors,” he planned to tell the panel, according to remarks released ahead of his testimony.
Democrats did not buy it.
“Here’s the reality: there is no emergency,” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York said, according to The Washington Post. “It’s made up. And it’s an abuse of the law.”
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