Senators hope to force vote on US arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Chris Murphy stands with arms crossed and eyebrows raised

"The fact that Lindsey is leading the resolution tells you that things are shifting inside the Republican caucus", said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is cosponsoring the measure with Sen.

"Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight", Young said.

The resolutions of disapproval need 51 votes to be discharged from the Foreign Relations Committee, where they were referred after Menendez introduced them last week.

A bipartisan pair of senators announced late Sunday their plan to introduce a privileged resolution Monday in hopes of using congressional oversight to block USA arms sales and other "security" assistance to Saudi Arabia-which, along with the United Arab Emirates, is leading the coalition waging war on Yemen.

The senators' resolution relies on a section of the Foreign Assistance Act (pdf) that empowers lawmakers to request that the administration deliver to Congress within 30 days a report detailing a country's human rights record.

Trump circumvented Congress by declaring a national emergency on the grounds of a security threat from Iran.

For Saudi Arabia, the sales include F-15 fighter jet support, Paveway precision-guided munitions, aircraft maintenance support, mortar rounds, engines for F-15s, and logistics and support for Saudi spy planes. The administration is using similar scare tactics to justify its end-run around Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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Anger has been mounting in Congress for months over the Trump administration's close ties to the Saudis, fueled by high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen - a military campaign the U.S.is assisting - and the killing of US -based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.

"First time we had a vote, we got about 22 people to oppose the sale. Last time, I think we got almost 50", said Sen.

"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' role in foreign policy-making", Murphy said in a statement reported by NBC News.

Still, efforts to block the sales face several hurdles on Capitol Hill.

A Senate vote on whether to discharge the resolutions from the committee could come as soon as Monday or Tuesday of next week, depending on a procedural ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, according to a Democratic aide with knowledge of the situation. But lawmakers have never tried to pass a resolution of disapproval after a president has invoked the emergency provision. They are in conversations with the Senate parliamentarian to see if that is the case. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.

"We've already got three Republicans as co-sponsors. That would give us 51 votes", Menendez said. The Saudi government has denied that it is ultimately responsible for his murder. "Sen. (Marco) Rubio has made clear his distaste for the Saudi regime".

As the political jockeying unfolded in Washington, the United Nations Development Programme issued a report underscoring the extent of the humanitarian disaster being fueled by USA weapons and logistical support. "Rubio join us, then all of a sudden, we're getting close to 67 votes".

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