A bipartisan group of lawmakers is planning a series of 22 votes in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's effort to circumvent Congress to sell billions of dollars worth of armaments to Mideast countries.
The nearly two dozen joint resolutions of disapproval are meant to rebuke the Trump administration's declaration last month of a national security emergency to push the arms sales through without congressional approval.
The Trump administration alleged an increased threat from Iran to use authorities under the Arms Export Control Act to waive a required congressional review period for the arms sales to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Those sales had been blocked by Congress since 2018.
Lawmakers were incensed at the action, particularly over rights concerned fueled by the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, to which the UAE is also a party, and Saudi Arabia's murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.
Republicans Senators Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Todd Young are being joined by Democrats Jack Reed, Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, and Patrick Leahy to formally rebuke the president.
“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," Graham said in a statement, referring to the Saudi crown prince whose approval critics allege was vital to Khashoggi's grisly slaying.
"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," Graham, who is the Judiciary Committee chairman and typically a staunch Trump ally, added.
The resolutions planned for a vote will not block the arms sales without a veto proof majority in both chambers of Congress, and is unclear if lawmakers have the necessary support. But short of that the votes will serve as a public lashing of the president's actions.
"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,” Menendez said.
"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," he added.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington