Trump Vetoes Efforts to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

(CN) – With the swipe of his veto pen, President Donald Trump dumped a trio of congressional resolutions meant to block his emergency arms deal with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on March 14, 2017. Saudi Arabia is making every effort to dazzle and impress President Donald Trump on his first overseas trip. The kingdom wants to seize on the historic visit to cement itself as a major player on the world stage and shove aside rival Iran as a rogue state on the fringes of the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The veto trips up House Democrats’ efforts to stop the $8.1 billion arms deal between the United States and several Middle Eastern countries.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the resolutions in what Representative Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a “phone emergency.”

The Trump administration advanced the sale in May and used rarely cited emergency powers to bypass congressional approval of the deal, which includes so-called smart bombs and their components.

In June, the Senate passed a larger cache of resolutions that would block the sale. Engel said the House chose to pass the three resolutions it did because they would have blocked the earliest weapons shipment ready to be sent out.

The House move represented 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.

In his veto messages Wednesday, Trump said the resolutions approved by the House of Representatives would “weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners.”

He continues, “First and foremost, it is our solemn duty to protect the safety of the more than 80,000 United States citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and who are imperiled by Houthi attacks from Yemen.”

Trump has used his veto pen twice before, including on a bill to remove U.S. troops from Yemen.

On Wednesday Engel said Trump’s veto “sends a grim message that America’s foreign policy is no longer rooted in our core values—namely a respect for human rights” and the sale will cost innocent lives. “These weapons are going to continue fueling a reckless and brutal campaign of violence and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.”

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

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