President Donald Trump on Thursday vetoed three bills aimed at blocking his administration from selling American-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The measures would have stopped an imminent shipment of 124,000 precision-guided missiles and the fuses to detonate them, among other items.
In his veto message, Trump said the measures would “weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners.”
The White House argued that the ban on arms sales conflicted with U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, by negatively affecting America’s defense partnership with key allies and “signaling that we are willing to abandon our partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an $8.1 billion weapons deal with the Saudis, the UAE and Jordan last month. Pompeo’s move sidestepped the normal congressional approval process by declaring a national security emergency. Pompeo said threats from Iran, a foe of the United States and Saudi Arabia, justified the decision to evade congressional review.
Lawmakers said there was no “emergency” and that Pompeo was just bypassing Congress because he knew lawmakers would not support the sale.
The GOP-led Senate voted in June to block the entire weapons deal, while the Democratic-controlled House approved a narrower package to ban the precision-guided missiles and other items.
Supporters do not appear to have the votes to override Trump’s veto.
Lawmakers in both chambers have pushed for a major shift in America’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a step that Trump has staunchly resisted.
Democrats and Republicans alike say that Saudi Arabia has become an increasingly unreliable ally and that the kingdom should face a rebuke for its role in the slaying of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Many members of Congress have also grown alarmed by the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and created a horrific humanitarian crisis.
Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, blasted Trump’s decision to veto the bills.
“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,” Engel said.
“Worse still, this veto is going to cost innocent lives,” he said, referring to the war in Yemen, where the Saudis have led a devastating bombing campaign. “These weapons are going to continue fueling a reckless and brutal campaign of violence and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” Engel said.
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