A bipartisan pair of senators announced late Sunday their plan to introduce a privileged resolution Monday in hopes of using congressional oversight to block U.S. arms sales and other "security" assistance to Saudi Arabia—which, along with the United Arab Emirates, is leading the coalition waging war on Yemen.
"The consequences are clear: the more weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia, the longer the war in Yemen drags on and the more civilians will die as a result of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by the Saudi-led coalition," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is cosponsoring the measure with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), said in a statement.
Murphy explained that "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's role in foreign policy making."
The resolution @SenToddYoung and I will introduce tomorrow is an innovative one. It first requires a human rights report from Trump on Saudi Arabia. Once the report is submitted, then we can force a vote on reforming the U.S.-Saudi security relationship - at a 50 vote threshold.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 9, 2019
Young and Murphy are both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will have 10 days to vote on the measure. If the panel does not take action in that time, the pair can then force a floor vote to discharge it and take up the resolution.
The senators' resolution relies on a section of the Foreign Assistance Act (pdf) that empowers lawmakers to request that the administration deliver to Congress within 30 days a report detailing a country's human rights record. After receiving the report, senators could force a vote on any aspect of American "security" assistance to Saudi Arabia, including recently announced and future arms sales.
When the Trump admin declared an emergency and fast-tracked the sale of arms the Saudis, it didn't just anger Congress, it raised concerns that they could gain access to technology letting them produce their own versions of American precision-guided bombs.https://t.co/iQLDu2H5Ub
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) June 9, 2019
"Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight. This bipartisan resolution simply asks the secretary of state to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them," said Young. "The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation on the ground."
The move, Politico noted, "runs parallel to an effort led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to block 22 recent arms sales, an effort which is supported by both Murphy and Young."
Those 22 resolutions, announced last Wednesday, followed outrage from both lawmakers and anti-war activists over the Trump administration using an emergency declaration loophole late last month to bypass congressional oversight and allow $8.1 billion in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Whoa. Bipartisan effort to end Saudi/UAE arms sales. pic.twitter.com/TzOJXAQ7Ov
— Joe Gould (@reporterjoe) June 5, 2019
While humanitarian and anti-war groups have demanded an end to U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led coalition's mass slaughter and starvation of Yemeni civilians for the past several years, the Trump administration's relationship with the Saudi regime has faced heightened scrutiny since Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.
After the Khashoggi assassination—likely ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to American intelligence agencies—Congress passed an historic War Powers resolution to end U.S. support for the coalition's assault on Yemen earlier this year. However, President Donald Trump vetoed the measure and the Senate failed to override his veto.
"This administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis—turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand," Murphy said Sunday. "Congress needs to change how we do business with the kingdom."