A Republican and a Democratic senator join forces on Monday to introduce a bill they hope will check President Donald Trump's ability to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.
The bill, which will be introduced by Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Todd Young of Indiana, would compel the Senate to vote whenever arms sales and other forms of military support are provided to Saudi Arabia, according to NBC News. Both Murphy and Young are members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which gives them a position of credibility when attempting to impose checks on a president's foreign policymaking powers.
"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," Murphy said in a statement.
Young expressed similar views, saying in a statement that "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. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention, and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation on the ground."
This is not the first time that Republicans have joined with Democrats to rebuke the Trump administration's policies toward Saudi Arabia. Last year, several congressional Republicans slammed Trump for refusing to acknowledge the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in ordering the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In March, seven Republican senators aligned with the Senate Democrats to reduce Trump's war-making powers and end America's support for a war being led by Saudi Arabia against Yemen, although that bill was eventually overridden by a presidential veto.
The bill by Murphy and Young is a response to a new Trump policy, which would allow certain types of sensitive American weapons technology to be manufactured in Saudi Arabia, according to NBC News:
A controversial arms deal for Arab allies approved by the Trump administration will allow U.S. hi-tech bomb parts to be manufactured in Saudi Arabia, giving Riyadh unprecedented access to a sensitive weapons technology.
The production arrangement is part of a larger $8.1 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan announced two weeks ago. The Trump administration pressed ahead with the sale without congressional approval, declaring an "emergency" based on what it said was a heightened threat from Iran.
"I think that American relationships with Saudi Arabia have always been complicated, from President [Franklin] Roosevelt on," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Salon earlier this year. "We do see them as a country that’s very important to us strategically and in any number of different ways. When during the [President Jimmy] Carter administration and then particularly during the [President Bill] Clinton administration we spent time talking about some of the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, and we have had issues with that. I think that it’s very… You’ve asked a hard question in terms of, I don’t know why the Yemen thing has not attracted more attention because it really is a huge tragedy. A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is being played out on the heads, literally, of the Yemenis."
She added, "The part that I find truly horrible is that some American military equipment is actually being used in terms of some of the tragedies of shootings and various things that are going on in Yemen. I think that it’s awful that we’re not paying attention to the humanitarian aspect of it."