Menendez may force Senate Republicans into week of non-stop debate over Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Menendez may force Senate Republicans into week of non-stop debate over Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia


By:  Jonathan D. Salant
NJ.com

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez threatened on Wednesday to force 22 votes in the Senate in order to block President Donald Trump’s effort to ignore Congress and sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, launched the effort after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited a threat from Iran and invoked an emergency under the Arms Export Control Act. He then approved 22 arms deals worth $8.1 billion to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

“We will not stand idly by and allow the president or the secretary of state to further erode congressional review and oversight of arms sales,” said Menendez, D-N.J.

Menendez and his co-sponsors, who include Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky along with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said they would introduce resolutions on each of the arms deals.

Unlike other legislation, the Senate Republican majority couldn’t block votes on them, and it would require only a majority of the full body to bring the measures to the floor for up to 10 hours of debate per resolution. That’s 220 hours, or more than a week of non-stop debate to the exclusion of everything else.

“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,” Menendez said. “Failing that, I am prepared to move forward with any and all options to nullify the licenses at issue.”

Trump has aligned himself with Saudi Arabia, even after Khashoggi, who had written articles critical of the Saudi government, was murdered after he went into the Saudi Consulate in Turkey last October.

He vetoed legislation that would have ended U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The UAE is part of the Saudi coalition. The vote on the bill was one of the rare times that Senate Republicans rebuffed Trump.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. has said Trump’s tax returns could show whether the president has financial dealings with Saudi Arabia that could influence U.S. policy.

Pascrell, D-9th Dist., has led the effort to obtain the returns, which administration officials have refused to turn over despite a 1924 law requiring them to do to so at the request of the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.