The Senate on Thursday blocked President Donald Trump’s deal with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to sell the Middle East countries $8.1 billion in arms, but Trump may still have the last say.
The Senate voted 53-45 on 22 resolutions designed to halt the administration’s pending sale. Senators cited Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the war in Yemen and the administration not seeking congressional approval for the transaction as their reasons.
Trump has signaled that he will veto the “resolutions of disapproval,” which would force the Senate to come up with 67 votes to override the veto.
“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 Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who sits on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.
“To not let that be undermined by some false emergency and to preserve that institutional right, regardless of who sits in the White House,” he added.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said military hardware support to countries like Saudi Arabia helps U.S. efforts to contain Iran and its proxies, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested while Saudi Arabia has had its problems, the kingdom is a partner in the region.
“(The decision) is whether we’ll lash out at an imperfect partner and undercut our own efforts to build cooperation, check Iran, and achieve other important goals, or whether we’ll keep our imperfect partners close and use our influence,” McConnell said about the arms sales vote.
One of Trump’s staunchest Senate supporters, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the administration cannot ignore the will of Congress nor the behavior of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been connected in Khashoggi’s death.
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