WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, along with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) on Sunday announced they will introduce a privileged resolution on Monday to begin the process of forcing a vote on arm sales and other security assistance to Saudi Arabia. This resolution comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency last month to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates totaling $8.1 billion without congressional approval. It also acts as a check on presidential power and reasserts Congress’ role in setting U.S. foreign policy.
Murphy and Young’s resolution draws upon Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act which allows Congress to vote to request information on a particular country’s human rights practices within 30 days. After receipt of this report, Congress can then vote on terminating or restricting security assistance. This allows for a forced vote on any aspect of U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia, which could include broad categories of future arms sales in addition the 22 specific sales notified last month. Upon introduction of this resolution, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has ten days to put the request for information before the Committee for consideration. Otherwise, Murphy and Young can force a floor vote on the motion to discharge from the Committee.
“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. 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. Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom. 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,” said Murphy.
“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. 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. I look forward to working with my colleagues to swiftly pass this resolution,” said Young.
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 restructured existing U.S. foreign assistance programs and created the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Last week, Murphy and Young were original cosponsors of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) 22 joint resolutions of disapproval to protect and reaffirm Congress’ role of approving arm sales to foreign governments. In the Senate, a resolution can be discharged from the Committee of jurisdiction which in turn would force a vote on the Senate floor.