Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales as Trump vows veto
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has voted to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, launching a new challenge to President Donald Trump’s alliance with the country amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
Trump has promised to veto the measures. The White House said stopping the sales “would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”
While all the resolutions of disapproval are likely to pass the House, supporters fell well short of a veto-proof margin. Two of the resolutions passed with 53 votes, while another group was approved narrowly, with 51 votes. Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Overall, there were 22 resolutions, one for each of the individual sales. But most of the resolutions were considered as a package to avoid tying up the Senate with lengthy debates over each of them.
Seven Republicans broke with Trump to reject at least some of the arms sales: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana.
The votes came against the backdrop of heightened U.S. tensions with Iran. Iran shot down a U.S. drone Thursday, a move Trump declared “a very big mistake.” Congressional leaders received a closed-door briefing on the situation at the Capitol and were invited to the White House in the afternoon the meet with Trump.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited threats from Iran 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.
“To reject these sales at this time and under these circumstances is to reward recent Iranian aggression and to encourage further Iranian escalation,” said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Risch added that blocking the sale would also “encourage miscalculation on the part of Iranians which will be disastrous.”