Bid to Block Saudi Arms Deal Fails in Senate

WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Republicans on Tuesday were able to win over enough Democrats to do away with a resolution disapproving of part of President Donald Trump’s $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The resolution would have blocked the United States from selling $510 million in precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, over concerns about the country’s human rights records, support of terror and the belief it would use the weapons to target civilians in Yemen.

Sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Chris Murphy, D-Con., and Al Franken, D-Minn., the resolution gained significant support on Monday night when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would support the resolution.

“I share [Murphy’s] concerns about the Saudi military’s conduct and believe the sale of these weapons could encourage further bad behavior,” Schumer said on the Senate floor shortly before the vote.

But even with the support of the Democratic leader, five Democrats joined 48 Republicans in opposing the motion, letting it fail 47-53.

Republican Sens. Dean Heller, Mike Lee and Todd Young joined Paul in voting to disapprove of the arms deal.

The vote kicks off a week of Senate action that could have significant impacts on the Trump administration’s foreign policy. Shortly after the resolution failed on Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought up an Iran sanctions bill that will now include an amendment to strengthen sanctions against Russia.

The amendment, which lawmakers announced on Monday night, will allow Congress to review any White House action to relax sanctions currently in place against the Russian government in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea as well as its attempts to influence the November presidential election.

If passed, it would also put in place new sanctions on those in Russia “conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government,” as well as on the country’s mining, metals, shipping and railway sectors. The underlying Iran sanctions bill would put in place additional sanctions against Iran, including blocking assets that would go to the country and support its ballistic missile programs.

Lawmakers on both sides support both the Iranian and Russian sanctions included in the bill, which will come up for a procedural vote on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think this sends exactly the right signal,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s a very strong bill against Russia and what they’ve been doing, but it also gives the administration the flexibility they need to carry out foreign policy.”

Schumer said the provision that allows Congress to review any relaxation of sanctions against Russia will serve as a check on the Trump administration.

“The bill should be a powerful signal to President Trump and the White House,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “That he might weaken or lift sanctions against Putin is a bipartisan concern, one that the Senate is not going to ignore.”


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