A bipartisan bid to block President Trump’s recently negotiated $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia failed in the Senate. The effort to stop the weapons sales, authored by Senators Rand Paul and Chris Murphy, fell short on a 47-53 vote, with four Republicans joining most Democrats in voting against it and five Democrats voting to preserve deals that will arm the Saudi Kingdom with some of the most sophisticated equipment available.
The five democrats who made the passage of the weapons deal possible were Sens. Bill Nelson, Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly and Mark Warner.
Despite the failure, Politico notes that Paul and Murphy fared better on Tuesday than they did last year in a similar effort to block a Saudi arms sale under former President Barack Obama, thanks entirely to new Democratic supporters: it’s curious how ideology changes ones outlook on lethal weaponry.
“Regardless of whether the number is 48 or 51 or 45” in favor of blocking the deals, Murphy told reporters before the vote, “this is an important message to the Saudis that we are all watching. And if they continue to target civilians and they continue to stop humanitarian aid from getting into Yemen, this vote will continue to go in the wrong direction for them.”
Paul said after the vote that he and Murphy would discuss possible future attempts to block Trump’s arms deals to Riyadh, warning that senators are growing more concerned about the civilian toll in a Yemen conflict that is pitting Saudi-backed government forces against rebel factions reportedly supported by Iran.
Before that happens, Paul told reporters, “there needs to be a period of time to see if there’s a change in Saudi warfare tactics.”
Like, for example, if Saudi Arabia plans on launching an assault on Qatar any time soon perhaps.
While Paul and Muprhy lost, the winners were the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia, and some Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, who claims this deal “will help Saudi Arabia fight ISIS and serve as a check on Iran.” Bob Corker was also a big supporter of the deal: “There is no classified intelligence that shows they have ever intentionally bombed civilians — as a matter of fact, intelligence down there shows that they didn’t,” Bob Corker told reporters before the vote, describing the attempted blockade of the sales as “cutting your nose off to spite your face.”
While previously there was little information on the specifics of the multi-billion dollar deal, over the weekend Defense News reported that it “includes seven THAAD missile defense batteries, over 100,000 air-to-ground munitions and billions of dollars’ worth of new aircraft.”