Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

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If the courts found the Global Magnitsky Act violated the constitutional separation-of-powers, Congress would still have the option of adopting a new sanctions bill that targets Saudi Arabia directly. But if Congress so desired, it could make the U.


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The Arms Export Control Act carves out a role for lawmakers with respect to major weapons sales to foreign countries. It creates a duty to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any major transfer of defense equipment or military services to a non-NATO partner. During that period, Congress can pass legislation that either blocks or modifies the proposed sale, though such a move would need enough support to override a presumptive presidential veto, notes the Congressional Research Service.

Arms Export Control Act - Wikipedia

In , Congress tried to block President Ronald Reagan from transferring a large arms package to Saudi Arabia that included hundreds of Stinger missiles and launchers — a controversial weapon at the time. Lawmakers failed to muster enough votes to override a presidential veto.

However, Reagan agreed to drop the Stinger missiles from the arms deal. Whatever the pricetag, future arms sales to Saudi Arabia could represent a pressure point for Congress. Marco Rubio , R-Fla. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

House Members Introduce Sweeping Measures to Reverse Administration’s Arms Sale Fiasco

Procedurally, Congress could do this by inserting a provision into an upcoming spending bill, said Gregory Koger, a political science professor at Miami University. Lawmakers could also use the power of the bully pulpit by holding hearings that shine a spotlight on the issue. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. The group includes three ranking members of powerful national security committees Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Appropriations , as well as two Republican members who have consistently challenged the administration on Middle East policy.

Top Democrat on Foreign Relations Menendez formally announces 22 separate disapproval measures

In their press release describing the resolutions, the senators raised human rights concerns, the behavior of Crown Prince Muhammad, and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen; they also insisted that there are more compelling means to counter Iran than weapons sales. The first item is the most controversial. Over the past year, Congress has objected to the sale of precision-guided munitions out of concern that they would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen.

At the same time, some of the sales involve U. The types of sales moving forward under the emergency waiver do not specifically address the issues that most members of Congress agree are legitimate, such as missile defense.

Senate fails to override Trump vetoes of bills stopping Saudi weapons sales

The administration also faces a high bar when compared to how past administrations have used the same authority. For example, President Bush invoked the exception in after Iraq invaded Kuwait, selling tanks and Fs to the Saudis. Yet these weapons came from existing U. The current resolutions of disapproval will not prevent the White House from moving forward with any of the sales.

In essence, the senators are using that same standard tool for a nonstandard situation. Yet while twenty-two resolutions can help grab headlines and send a signal to the executive branch, foreign governments, and the defense industry, they are unlikely to compel speedy legislative consideration on the Senate floor. Even if the Senate and House were to pass some of them, President Trump would no doubt veto them, and the Senate is unlikely to override him given the required two-thirds margin.


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