Congress

Senators seek another way to push back on Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy

Bipartisan group announces resolution to require report on the kingdom’s human rights record

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is helping to lead the push for more congressional oversight of foreign assistance to Saudi Arabia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators are continuing to look for creative ways to push back against the Trump administration’s foreign policy initiatives, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

The latest bipartisan effort seeks to force a floor vote to request Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to report to Congress on the human rights record of Saudi Arabia, under a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act.

The announcement of the bipartisan joint resolution by Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy and Indiana Republican Todd Young follows the news from earlier this week that Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez was introducing 22 joint resolutions to terminate arms sales proposed by the Trump administration to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Both Murphy and Young are co-sponsors of the Menendez-led effort, and both senators serve on the Foreign Relations Committee.

The resolution to require the report, which would need to be returned within a month, is privileged in the Senate and can be considered under expedited procedures. The chamber could vote to discharge the Foreign Relations Committee and take up the resolution if the panel does not act within 10 days of the measure's introduction.

Young, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, focused his attention Sunday on the importance of knowing what sort of U.S. armaments could be deployed by Saudi Arabia as part of their ongoing operations in Yemen.

“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand Congressional oversight. This bipartisan resolution simply asks the Secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them,” the Indiana Republican said.

Senators including Young and Murphy came up short of overriding a veto by President Donald Trump in a May 2 vote that sought to terminate U.S. support activities for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

As far as the latest resolution is concerned, what’s key is not the report request itself — rather, it is what could happen after receiving the report. At that point, a measure could be in order that would terminate U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia.

As Murphy said in a Sunday afternoon statement, the newest effort could compel a debate on broader questions of U.S.-Saudi relations, extending far beyond the recently announced arms sales. The State Department authorized the sales under the auspices of an emergency declaration, inflaming lawmakers by avoiding a congressional review period.

“This administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis —turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand. Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom,” Murphy said. “The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy making.”

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