The Senate passed 22 measures aimed at blocking White House plans for $8.1 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates―setting up a veto showdown with President Donald Trump.
The disapproval resolutions passed in three votes. A handful of Republicans joined Democrats to pass each measure, with no Democratic defectors. The simple majority suggests the measures are vulnerable to the White House veto threat it issued ahead of the votes.
The White House veto threat argued Saudi Arabia serves as a bulwark against Iran and its proxies in the region, but also that halting the sales would trigger “unintended consequences” for allies beyond the Mideast. It cited the global supply chain for some of the capabilities―to allies Korea, India, Jordan and others with coproduction licensing.
“[M]uch of the transatlantic defense industry is highly integrated and reliant on United States components and intellectual property—cooperation that ensures interoperability, which in turn makes NATO stronger,” the veto threat reads. “The proposed joint resolutions would threaten the reliability of the United States as a partner in defense R&D, as a supplier of defense equipment, and as a stalwart for ensuring NATO interoperability.”
The range of sales involves Paveway precision-guided munitions and F110 engines for F-15 jets for Saudi Arabia; APK WS laser-guided rockets and Patriot missiles for the UAE; and Paveway II precision-guided munitions for Jordan. Details of the sales were published in the Congressional Record.
The unprecedented move reflects growing concerns from Democratic and Republican members of Congress over concerns about civilian casualties in the Saudi air campaign in Yemen and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.