Senate Fails To Override Trump’s Veto Of Saudi Arms Sales Bills

On Monday, July 29, the United States Senate failed to override three of Trump’s vetoes of Saudi arms sales legislation. The bipartisan coalition supporting the regulation of arms sales needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the vetoes, but they fell short with votes of 45-40, 45-39, and 46-41. Politico reports that seven Republican senators – Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Todd Young of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky – voted alongside senate democrats for the first two resolutions. 

The proposed regulations came after the Trump administration announced that it would proceed with over $8 billion in military sales to various countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, bypassing the congressional review process by declaring an emergency over Iran. The measures were introduced by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, to rebuke what many saw as executive overreach. The legislation would have blocked the sale of Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions and other similar equipment. According to a Reuters report, the bipartisan coalition supporting these bills hoped to encourage the Saudi government to improve its human rights record after the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Several senators also expressed concern over the large number of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

Despite congressional concerns over the relationship between the Trump administration and the Saudi government, Trump stated in his veto message that he believes the legislation “would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners.” He also vetoed similar legislation in April that would have ended American involvement in the Yemen war. In a message to the senate, Trump further explained these vetoes saying, “The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end. But we cannot end it through ill-conceived and time-consuming resolutions that fail to address its root causes.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee released a 50-page report on Monday expressing concerns over the Trump administration’s close ties with Saudi Arabia. The report claimed that new documents “raise serious questions about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the president’s friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.”

For instance, the report claims that Trump’s close friend and campaign donor, Tom Barrack, negotiated special positions with the administration, including special envoy to the Middle East and ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, while also promoting the interests of his company, Colony NorthStar, and profiting from the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. In addition, the report claims that IP3, a company hoping to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia, had “unprecedented access to the highest levels” of the Trump administration including Jared Kushner, Rick Perry, Steve Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, Wilbur Ross, and Trump himself. In these meetings, Barrack allegedly lobbied for the administration not to hold Saudi Arabia to the “gold standard” because it would deter them from signing nuclear contracts. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland summarized these findings by stating that the report “exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.”

Despite the failure of the Senate to gather enough opposition to rebuke Trump’s vetoes, the New York Times reports that House Democrats have made it clear that they will continue their fight against the corrupt relationship between the Trump administration, corporate lobbying groups and the Saudi Arabian government. 

Ruby Shealy