Trump Stops US Congress from Blocking Saudi Arms Sale

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President Trump has vetoed three congressional resolutions that would block his emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“This resolution would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners,” Trump wrote in veto messages to Congress released by the White House on Wednesday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier in the afternoon entered Trump’s veto messages into the Senate record and set up a vote on the messages before Aug. 2.

Congress is not expected to have the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s vetoes.

The move marks the third time Trump has used his veto pen, and it follows an earlier veto of a Saudi-related measure.

The Trump administration in May invoked an emergency provision of the law governing arms sales to push through 22 deals with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan without the typical 30-day congressional review period.

The administration argued the emergency declaration was justified based on what they described as heightened threats from Iran. But the move infuriated lawmakers, who accused the White House of attempting to bypass Congress.

Lawmakers had been using an informal process for more than a year to block the arms sales from moving forward because of concerns about civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war.

In the veto messages, Trump argued that the resolutions were an “ill-conceived and time-consuming” way to address concerns about the war.

“The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end,” Trump wrote.

“But we cannot end it through ill-conceived and time-consuming resolutions that fail to address its root causes. Rather than expend time and resources on such resolutions, I encourage the Congress to direct its efforts toward supporting our work to achieve peace through a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Yemen.”

Congress has also been furious at Saudi Arabia over the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year.

Those same concerns led Congress to pass a resolution earlier this year that would have ended U.S. military support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen. Trump vetoed that resolution, and the Senate, where the resolution originated, did not have the votes to override.

The Senate voted 53-45 in June to block two of the emergency arms sales, and 51-45 to block the other 20.

The House followed suit by blocking three of the arms sales in mid-July. Two resolutions passed 238-190, and the third passed 237-190.

House lawmakers have said they chose to vote on three, rather than all 22, in the interest of time since Trump was assured to issue a veto.

They have also said the three they focused on were most relevant to the Yemen civil war and the first of the 22 slated to be shipped out.

The three resolutions vetoed by Trump covered Paveway precision-guided munitions for the Saudis and Emiratis, as well as fuzing systems to detonate the bombs.

The Paveway deal with the Saudis also includes the co-production of the so-called smart bombs, an aspect that has raised concerns among lawmakers who say it runs the risk of giving the Saudis access to sensitive technology they can use to produce their own version of the bomb.

With Congress likely unable to override Trump’s vetoes, lawmakers have already begun plotting their next steps. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled Thursday to debate competing bills to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the Khashoggi killing and Yemen civil war.

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