House Blocks Sale of Weapons to Saudi 07/18 06:41
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald
Trump after the House voted on Wednesday to block his administration from
selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to Saudi Arabia.
Trump, who has sought to forge closer ties with Riyadh, has pledged to veto
the resolutions of disapproval that passed the Democratic-led House largely
along party lines. Two of the resolutions passed with 238 votes, while a third
was approved with 237. Each of the measures garnered just four Republican
The Senate cleared the resolutions last month, but like the House, fell well
short of a veto-proof majority. Overturning a president's veto requires a
two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
accused the Trump administration of circumventing Congress and the law to move
ahead with the arms sale. He called the resolutions "extraordinary but
necessary" to stop "a phony emergency to override the authority of Congress."
The votes came against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Middle
East, with much of the focus on Iran. Tehran is pushing the limits on its
nuclear program after Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the
2015 nuclear deal more than a year ago. Iran has inched its uranium production
and enrichment over the limits of the accord, trying to put more pressure on
Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
The White House has declared stopping the sale would send a signal that the
United States doesn't stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time
when threats against them are increasing.
But opposition among members of Congress to the Trump administration's
alliance with the Saudis has been building, fueled by the high civilian
casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen --- a military campaign the U.S. is
assisting --- and the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi
The arms package, worth an estimated $8 billion, includes thousands of
precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition, and aircraft
maintenance support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had cited Iranian aggression when declaring
an emergency to approve the weapons sales in May. The Saudis have recently
faced a number of attacks from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
"Right now as I speak Iran is stretching its tentacles of terror across the
Middle East," said the Foreign Affairs Committee's top Republican, Rep. Michael
McCaul of Texas, who pushed for the resolutions to be rejected. "If we allow
them to succeed, terrorism will flourish, instability will reign and the
security of our allies like Israel will be threatened."
Critics of the sale also had denounced the White House for bypassing
congressional review of the arms sales, which was done by invoking an
emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act.
Pompeo had informed Congress that he had made the determination "that an
emergency exists which requires the immediate sale" of the weapons "in order to
deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the
Middle East region."
The law requires Congress to be notified of potential arms sales, giving the
body the opportunity to block the sale. But the law also allows the president
to waive that review process by declaring an emergency that requires the sale
be made "in the national security interests of the United States."
Engel said there was no emergency, arguing that two months after Pompeo's
notification not a single weapon has been shipped and many of them haven't even
"What kind of emergency requires weapons that will be built months and
months down the road?" Engel said.