WASHINGTON—The Senate passed a series of resolutions aimed at blocking 22 arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, dealing another symbolic blow to the Trump administration’s close ties to the Middle East allies.
Seven Republicans joined every Senate Democrat on the first two of three votes on blocking the group of arms sales, worth more than $8 billion. Five Republicans supported the third measure; Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) voted “no” on that measure, while Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) didn’t vote.
The Trump administration approved the sales last month under rarely used emergency powers to bypass the typical Congressional review process. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the time said that escalating tensions with Iran necessitated the expedited sale of the arms, which include precision guided missiles.
But Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), who introduced the resolutions, and lawmakers in both parties have said that the Saudi-led war in Yemen and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents has made selling the country weapons unacceptable.
The move to block the arms sales is the latest in a series of bipartisan votes the GOP-controlled Senate has taken challenging the Trump administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. A resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-coalition in Yemen also passed with Republican support.
The resolutions will still need to pass the House, and the White House has indicated it would veto the resolutions.
Opponents of blocking the arms sales have pointed to recent incidents in the Middle East that the U.S. has attributed to Iran as necessitating the importance of the sales. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. military drone Thursday.
“These close partners deserve our support,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who said that members of the Senate have had ample opportunity to show their distaste for recent Saudi behavior. “The vast majority of senators share our serious concerns over the policy and actions of our Saudi partners. But rejecting arms sales strikes me as an overly blunt tool with several unintended consequences.”
The vote in Washington came hours after a court ruling in the U.K. forced the British government to suspend new arms exports to Saudi Arabia. In that ruling Thursday, judges said the U.K. government had failed to systematically assess whether the Saudi-led coalition had broken international law in the Yemen conflict and ordered a review of Britain’s arms-export approval process.