WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, along with Ranking Member U.S Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and U.S Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) on Wednesday announced they are introducing 22 separate Joint Resolutions of Disapproval to protect and reaffirm Congress’s role of approving arms sales to foreign governments. Today’s introductions come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency on May 24 to waive the congressional review process for 22 separate arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE – a total of $8.1 billion.
Arguing there is an increased threat from Iran, the Trump Administration invoked authorities under the Arms Export Control Act that, in certain circumstances, grant the president exceptional emergency authority to waive the statutorily-required congressional review period for arms sales. The manner in which the Administration has moved forward with these sales is unprecedented and is at odds with longstanding practice and cooperation between the Congress and the executive branch that results in the approval of billions of dollars of arms sales annually.
“Selling more bombs to the Saudis simply means that the famine and cholera outbreak in Yemen will get worse, Iran will get stronger, and Al Qaeda and ISIS will continue to flourish amidst the chaos of the civil war. Saudi Arabia treats us like the junior partner in this relationship, chopping up U.S. residents and torturing others, all the while demanding we remain silent and sell them more weapons. The U.S.-Saudi relationship needs to change, and it's clear that only Congress can make that happen," said Murphy.
“The Trump Administration’s effort to sell billions of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is yet another example of an end-run around Congress and a disregard for human rights. We are taking this step today to show that we will not stand idly by and allow the President or the Secretary of State to further erode Congressional review and oversight of arm sales,” said Menendez. “Regrettably, Secretary Pompeo’s abuse of this emergency authority has broken the arms sales process. The best thing the Secretary of State can do right now is withdraw his emergency certification, immediately submit these sales for the normal Congressional review and engage with Senators to address our concerns. Failing that, I am prepared to move forward with any and all options to nullify the licenses at issue for both Saudi Arabia and UAE and eliminate any ability for the Administration to bypass Congress in future arms sales.”
“While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored. Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia,” said Graham. “I am also very concerned about the precedent these arms sales would set by having the Administration go around legitimate concerns of the Congress. I expect and look forward to strong bipartisan support for these resolutions of disapproval.”
“For far too long, Saudi Arabia has acted with impunity. Whether creating humanitarian disasters, spreading radical Islam, or making journalists disappear, their flagrant behavior around the world is simply unacceptable. Congress must once again rise in a bipartisan fashion to send a loud message against this administration sending more arms unilaterally to the Kingdom,” said Paul.
“In a shameless attempt to avoid any input from Congress, the Secretary of State is signing off on the sale of $8 billion in weapons for half a dozen countries after declaring an ‘emergency’ caused by Iran,” said Leahy. “The law provides Congress 30 days to review the sale, but apparently that is too long for the Secretary, even though the bulk of these weapons will not be delivered for many months or years. This administration’s credibility when it comes to arms sales, human rights, and the rule of law is in tatters. By introducing resolutions of disapproval, Republicans and Democrats are standing together in support of a process of consultation that has worked well for decades, regardless of which party controls the White House.”
“Congress has an essential oversight role in the decision to sell weapons and we must ensure proper procedures are in place in any weapons transfer,” said Young. “In light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, we have an obligation to ensure the adequate guardrails are in place and that weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates do not exacerbate the conflict. Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terror, but the current threats that have been briefed to members of Congress do not justify taking this dramatic step. The aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, is deployed to the Gulf and I am confident that the members of our military could respond if a threat were to arise.”
The Arms Export Control Act of 1976 provides the special procedures whereby lawmakers can introduce a privileged joint resolution of disapproval against a proposed arm sale. In the Senate, a resolution can be discharged from the Committee of jurisdiction, forcing a vote on the Senate floor.