The U.S. House voted Wednesday, July 17 to block $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other allies, a rebuke of Donald Trump that will likely lead to a veto by the president.
Lawmakers, many of whom are outraged with the kingdom over Riyadh’s role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, approved three resolutions that would prevent the controversial sales announced under emergency measures earlier this year by Trump.
The resolutions blocking the sales have already cleared the U.S. Senate, and now go to the White House, where Trump is expected to issue the third veto of his presidency.
While the House blocked the sales with a comfortable majority, it was about 50 votes shy of the two-thirds needed to override Trump’s veto.
Trump is seeking 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.
Critics say the arms sales would aggravate the devastating war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a U.S.-backed coalition in a battle against the Iran-supported Houthi rebels, and which the United Nations said has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“When we see what’s going on in Yemen, it’s so important for the United States to take a stand,” House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said on the House floor.
The veteran Democrat concurred that the threats from the Houthis were real, “but that doesn’t mean we should just look the other way in the face of violence and the slaughter of civilians.”
Trump’s administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sale in May, as his administration declared Iran to be a “fundamental threat” to the stability of the Middle East.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by Saudi Arabia’s arch-foe Iran.
But lawmakers including some Senate Republicans said there were no legitimate grounds to circumvent Congress, which has the right to disapprove arms sales.