Trump Uses Veto to Allow Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia & UAE, Senate to Attempt Override Next Week
Should Congress override Trump's veto & block the arms sales?
by Countable | 7.25.19
President Donald Trump vetoed three bills on Wednesday which sought to block Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from buying or manufacturing certain precision-guided bombs because of civilian casualties inflicted by their coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that his chamber would hold votes attempting to override the vetoes before it adjourns for August recess at the end of next week.
What would the bills do?
The bills would use Congress’s powers under the Arms Export Control Act to bar specific arms sales to Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates (along with other allied nations involved in the sale). They were introduced as part of a 22-bill package by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Mike Lee (R-UT) which passed the Senate.
Here’s what the three bills that also passed the House would do if Congress successfully overrides the president’s vetoes:
- S.J.Res. 36 would block a sale allowing the coproduction & manufacture of guidance systems of Paveway precision-guided bombs in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It would also block the transfer of up to 64,403 additional kits, partial kits, and full-up-rounds.
- S.J.Res. 37 would prohibit the sale of 60,000 guidance system kits for Paveway II laser-guided bombs to the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with France and the U.K.
- S.J.Res. 38 would prohibit Saudi Arabia from purchasing services, equipment, and data related to manufacturing fuzing systems for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs in collaboration with the U.K.
What are both sides saying?
President Donald Trump wrote that the bills would undermine his administration’s efforts to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 U.S. citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and are imperiled by Houthis attacking from Yemen using missiles, armed drones, and explosive boats.” Trump also wrote that the bills would undermine the military capabilities and defense industries of friendly countries without helping the situation in Yemen:
“[B]y restricting the ability of our partners to produce and purchase precision-guided munitions, [these bills] would likely prolong the conflict in Yemen and deepen the suffering it causes. By undermining bilateral relationships of the United States and impeding our ability to support key partners at a critical time, the joint resolution would harm — not help — efforts to end the conflict in Yemen. And without precision-guided munitions, more — not fewer — civilians are likely to become casualties of the conflict.”
Speaking on the floor before the Senate’s initial passage of these bills in June, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said the bills’ passage would signal disapproval over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate and “send a global message you cannot kill journalists with impunity.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) added:
“My relationship with Saudi Arabia is forever changed and will not go back to the way it used to be until Saudi Arabia changes its behavior & leadership.”
What will happen in the Senate (& maybe the House)?
Because these bills originated in the Senate, the initial override votes will occur in the upper chamber. If two-thirds of senators vote to override the veto, the bills would then go to the House to do the same.
That seems unlikely to happen for any of the three resolutions given that the vote tallies from their initial passage in the Senate & House are well short of the two-thirds majority required for an override to be successful:
- S.J.Res. 36 passed the Senate on a 53-45 vote & the House on a 238-190 vote.
- S.J.Res. 37 passed the Senate 51-40 on a vote en bloc with 19 other arms sales disapproval resolutions & the House on a 238-190 vote.
- S.J.Res. 38 passed the Senate on a 53-45 vote & the House on a 237-190 vote.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: DOD Photo - TSgt. Hans Deffner via Wikimedia / Public Domain)
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