Trump scuttles Saudi Arabia arms restriction bills with vetoes

Trump scuttles Saudi Arabia arms restriction bills with vetoes

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chief Master Sgt. Mohammed Saud Alosaimi presents a coin to Brendon Belnap, a U.S. Air Force trainee, during the basic military training Coining Ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, on July 11. (Johnny Saldivar/DoD)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vetoed legislation that would have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, increasing the divide between the president who has business dealings in Saudi Arabia and growing bipartisan unhappiness with Riyadh’s behavior.

Trump vetoed three resolutions Wednesday that were in opposition to his declaring a national emergency in order to arm Saudi Arabia. The resolutions also reflected concerns Congress has about the Saudi-led war in Yemen — declared by the United Nations as the planet’s worst humanitarian crisis — and growing fury about the Saudi government skirting punishment for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The President’s veto sends a grim message that America’s foreign policy is no longer rooted in our core values — namely a respect for human rights — and that he views Congress not as a coequal branch of government, but an irritant to be avoided or ignored,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a news release.

“Worse still, this veto is going to cost innocent lives. These weapons are going to continue fueling a reckless and brutal campaign of violence and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Neither the House nor Senate passed the measures with enough votes to override a veto.

The Pentagon has opposed legislation that would restrict U.S. military aid or advice to Saydi Arabia.

The Trump administration declared the emergency in May to skirt the 30-day requirement on proposed arms sales. The White House blamed “the malign influence” and growing threat from Iran throughout the Middle East.

Trump’s veto and Saudi enthusiasm has caused a division in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as to how to push back on action against Saudi Arabia.

The committee is expected to vote today on competing measures regarding Saudi Arabia, one pushed by Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the committee chair, and the other by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat.

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