Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales


By:  MARIANNE LEVINE
Politico

 

The Senate failed Monday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of resolutions to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The 45-40 vote highlights the Senate’s ongoing struggle to hold the kingdom accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The vote is the first of three votes to override the president's vetoes.

It also demonstrates that despite bipartisan concern over the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia, the majority of Senate Republicans view the kingdom as a key counterbalance to Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

The Senate passed three resolutions in June after the Trump administration signaled it would circumvent Congress and sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Seven Republicans voted for the first two resolutions blocking the sales — Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Todd Young of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Murkowski voted against the third resolution, while Lee did not vote.

Monday’s vote had a similar breakdown, with 45 senators voting in favor of the override. It was the Senate’s second time taking up a veto override related to the Trump administration’s policy toward Saudi Arabia. In May, the Senate failed to overcome Trump’s veto of a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.

The vote leaves the Senate with limited options to block Trump’s actions with Saudi Arabia. Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) failed to move his White House-approved bill out of Committee. The bill would have limited visas for some Saudi government officials and would require that the Secretary of State review the United States’ relationship with the kingdom.

The bill was essentially killed in committee when the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), attached his own Saudi Arabia legislation as an amendment — forcing Risch to withdraw his. Menendez’s bill, which would block certain arms sales to the kingdom and in-flight refueling of Saudi Arabia’s aircraft and is considered tougher than Risch’s, instead passed the committee. But it’s unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring the bill to the floor.