‘Now Is Not the Time’: Lindsey Graham Breaks with Trump on Saudi Arms Sale

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is one of President Donald Trump‘s most stalwart supporters, but the senator is taking a public stand against the president on an issue. Graham and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are leading a bipartisan group of senators in introducing 22 joint resolutions to block the Trump Administration from bypassing Congress to finalize an $8.1 billion military package to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

“While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of (Saudi Crown Prince) Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored. Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia,” Graham said in a statement.

Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the group is “taking this step today to show that we will not stand idly by and allow the President or the Secretary of State to further erode Congressional review and oversight of arm sales.”

The Trump Administration declared an emergency in May to sidestep Congress, arguing this was necessary to push back against Iran. “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) brought attention to the administration’s plan to declare an emergency last week. He said that the president would use a loophole to push a Saudi arms deal through.

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) offered the administration the opportunity to do an end-run around Congress by claiming the arms sale is an emergency in light of the increased tensions with Iran. Murphy warned that this legal reasoning is so broad that it “would allow any president to claim any number of Middle East crises as an ’emergency’ and then Congress will never be able to object to an arms sale again.”

Congress has recently grown weary of any support of Saudi Arabia in light of the country’s support for the war in Yemen, which has created a humanitarian disaster.

Back in April, Congress passed a war powers resolution that called for an end to the United States’ support for Saudi forces in Yemen. Trump subsequently vetoed the resolution and said that it was “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a failed effort to override Trump’s veto that “abandoning our Saudi partners and Yemini partners is hardly the way to give them the confidence to take the hard diplomatic steps that are necessary.”

[Image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]

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