A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would block the Trump administration’s move to sell $8 billion worth of weapons to Gulf countries.
The bill aims to stop all 22 sales, including the transfer of precision-guided munitions, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a press release from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Lawmaker opposition to arms control sales to Saudi Arabia has expanded since Congress restricted roughly $2 billion worth of weapons over concerns the kingdom was using them in the ongoing military campaign in Yemen and in response to the murder of U.S.-based dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to threats from Iran to push the sale through despite Hill opposition.
Rep. Tom Malinowski, New Jersey Democrat and former State Department official, said the White House has presented “no evidence that the Gulf countries face any substantially new threat from Iran that would justify declaring an emergency, or that these weapons, which the Saudis need to keep bombing Yemen, would even be useful if such a threat arose.”
The latest legislation comes weeks after the White House opted to skip a congressional review process for the proposed sale by invoking a national security waiver in the Arms Export Control Act, That move angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who argued such a deal requires congressional approval.
“The emergency declaration is nothing more than an egregious abuse of power by an Administration that doesn’t like being told ‘no.’ There is no emergency,” Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, said in a statement.
Mr. Lieu offered a joint resolution co-sponsored by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash to reject the sales, a congressional aide confirmed to The Washington Times.
In a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, State Department official R. Clark Cooper defended the deal and explained that it is needed to protect U.S. interests. But committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, New York Democrat, called the move “a slap in the face … an abuse of the law.”
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the panel’s ranking Republican, said the deal represented an “unfortunate” use of military authority.
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