A bipartisan Senate duo will kickstart proceedings on Monday to force a vote on the US-Saudi security relationship, including the US’ recent $8.1 billion arms sale to the country, their offices announced Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana will introduce a privileged resolution on Monday to eventually prompt a vote to assess the relationship based on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
The move comes as a bipartisan group of senators, including Murphy and Young, introduced resolutions of disapproval in response to the 22 US arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaling $8.1 billion. The Trump administration declared an emergency last week to bypass Congress and expedite the sales, citing the need to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran throughout the Middle East.
Monday’s resolution is based on Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act, which permits Congress to vote on requesting to receive human rights information on countries within 30 days, according to a press release. Upon receiving it, Congress can then vote on “terminating or restricting security assistance,” including the arms sales, the release states.
Once Murphy and Young introduce the resolution, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has 10 days to consider the information request – otherwise the two can force a floor vote to move it from the committee, according to the release.
“Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom,” Murphy said in a statement. “The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy making.”
Young added, “Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand Congressional oversight. This bipartisan resolution simply asks the Secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them.”
A Democratic aide called the resolution “another effort that allows us to get the administration on record regarding Saudi’s human rights abuses,” stressing that it could extend beyond the 22 existing arms sales to block all security assistance and future arms sales.
The aide anticipated that the measure would attract bipartisan support as a “creative way to safeguard Congress’ role in foreign policy.”
Saudi Arabia’s recent military growth – in part due to backing from China – has raised concerns. The US government has obtained intelligence that China has helped Saudi Arabia significantly expand its ballistic missile program, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. The development threatens decades of US efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East.