Bipartisan pair seeks to block $1.15B Saudi arms sale

September 20, 2016
In The News

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced a House resolution Tuesday that would block a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia amid concerns that U.S. weapons are being used against civilians in Yemen.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen is bombing innocent civilians in Yemen,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said in a written statement. “When hospitals and schools become military targets, this is cause for serious concern, not just for our national security but also for our moral standing around the world.”

The resolution, from Lieu and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), is a companion to a Senate resolution expected to be voted on Wednesday.

Lawmaker criticism of U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has grown since last month when peace talks collapsed, the Saudis reinvigorated their bombing campaign and airstrikes almost immediately hit civilian targets, killing dozens.

The United States supports the campaign against Houthi rebels by providing air refueling and limited intelligence, as well as selling the Saudis billions of dollars of arms.

The latest sale, approved by the State Department in August, would provide $1.15 billion of tanks and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The Senate resolution was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). The senators used a little-known loophole in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to force a vote on their resolution.

Under the AECA, senators have to give a committee 10 calendar days to take up the resolution before they can bring it back to the Senate floor.

But in the House, the Foreign Affairs Committee needs to pass a joint resolution before a member can force a floor vote on an arms sale, so it’s unclear whether the House resolution can get a vote.

Lieu has been vocal about his opposition to U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign. In August, he led a group of 64 lawmakers in sending a letter to President Obama asking him to delay the pending sale.

In his Tuesday statement, Lieu said the United States should not be “aiding and abetting” the devastation in Yemen.

“My legislation begins the process in the House of Representatives to block the proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The United States of America should not be aiding and abetting these atrocities and should immediately halt any activity to sell additional arms to the Saudis.”