UPDATED: President Trump Vetoes Bipartisan Resolutions to Block Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE

***On 24 July 2019, President Donald Trump vetoed the bipartisan resolutions to block US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

***On 17 July 2019, the House passed three resolutions already passed by Senate, in an attempt to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. S.J.Res 36 passed 238-190, S.J.Res 37 passed 238-190, and S.J.Res 38 passed 237-190. The resolutions will now go to President Trump, who will likely issue a veto.

21 June 2019 – Yesterday, the United States (US) Senate voted to pass 22 resolutions disapproving US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With this vote, the Senate is sending a clear message to President Donald Trump, and is demonstrating an increasing commitment to human rights in the Arab Gulf region. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the passing of these resolutions and the renewed action by Congress to hold allies accountable for ongoing rights abuses.

The 22 resolutions had been introduced in response to President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and sell $8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. This $8 billion is just a small part of an anticipated additional $110 billion worth of “border security and counterterrorism, maritime and coastal security, air force modernization, air and missile defense, and cybersecurity and communications upgrades” slated for sale to the kingdom by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA), concluded in a deal between the President and Saudi King Salman on 20 May 2019.

The bi-partisan resolutions were sponsored by Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by several other Senators, including some usual Trump allies like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). When speaking on the resolutions, both Senator Menendez and Senator Graham reaffirmed the need to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights abuses, including its actions in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Senator Graham, in particular, argued that as an important US partner, Saudi Arabia needed to be held to a higher standard in order to continue to receive arms shipments.

The 22 resolutions were voted on in three consecutive votes. The Senate passed S. J. Res. 36, voting 53-45, and  S. J. Res. 38 was also passed with a 53-45 vote. The final 20 resolutions were voted on at once, and passed 51-45.

The Senate’s decision to take a stand against the continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is an important first step toward decreasing American involvement in Yemen and holding countries accountable for human rights violations. Following these votes, the resolutions will proceed to the House, where they are expected to pass without incident. Unfortunately, though the resolutions did pass in the Senate, they did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a White House veto. The White House has already issued a statement stating that if the President were presented with the resolutions he would veto them.

“The passing of these resolutions in the Senate is a huge step in the right direction, and shows a growing willingness among Congress to halt US support to human rights abusers,” says ADHRB’s Executive Director, Husain Abdulla. “I hope we can continue to see this kind of momentum in Congress. It is crucial that we stop turning a blind eye to human rights violations and awarding countries who carry out abuses.”

ADHRB applauds the Senate for passing these resolutions of disapproval and calls on the House to do the same. We also urge continued action on the part of Congress to hold the executive branch to account, and ensure that human rights are no longer disregarded.