House Passes Bills Blocking Sale of Weapons to Saudis

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Wednesday sent a trio of bills to President Donald Trump’s desk that would block parts of an $8.1 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and other countries, defying the White House’s veto threat.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The resolutions the House passed Wednesday take aim at the sale of so-called smart bombs and their components to nations including Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration advanced the sale in May and used rarely cited emergency powers to bypass congressional approval of the deal.

At the end of June, the Senate passed a larger cache of resolutions that would block the sale. Representative Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the House chose to pass the three it did Wednesday because they block the weapons that will be shipped the soonest.

Engel said Trump used a “phony emergency” to push the arms sales through without congressional approval, calling the move an abuse of executive power. Engel pointed out that even two months after the administration declared the emergency, the so-called smart bombs and their components have not shipped and some have not even yet been built.

“If the administration wants to sell these weapons, they should follow the law, not misuse it, and they should come to Congress for its approval,” Engel said on the House floor Wednesday.

The move represents the latest congressional effort to rebuke the Trump administration’s policy towards Saudi Arabia, having voted earlier this year to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The first two resolutions cleared the House with identical 238-190 votes on Wednesday, while the third passed 237-190. The White House has threatened to veto each of them, saying blocking the sales would threaten security in the Middle East.

“[The resolution] would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy in June.

Most Republicans backed the administration on the vote, arguing that blocking the arms deal would be a blow to U.S. relations with a key country in the region.

“Now is not the time to deny our partners what they need for their defense, nor is it time to withhold precision guided munitions that could minimize the risk to civilians,” Representative Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said on the House floor Wednesday.

Congress is unlikely to be able to override Trump’s veto, given the margins by which the resolutions passed each chamber.

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