In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Trump administration may cite tensions with Iran as an “emergency” to justify supplying more arms to the Riyadh regime, presstv.ir reported.
“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” Murphy said.
“Arms control law allows Congress to reject a sale to a foreign country. But Trump would claim the sale constitutes an ‘emergency’ which means Congress can't take a vote of disapproval. It would go through automatically,” he added.
Under US arms control law, Congress must be given 30 days to approve weapons export to foreign countries. A provision of the legislation, however, allows the president to declare an emergency, circumvent the legislature and sell arms immediately.
Murphy warned that Trump’s likely move could set a “dangerous precedent.”
He also noted that there was no new emergency reason to provide Saudi Arabia with bombs that would be dropped on Yemen.
“The Saudis been dropping the bombs on civilians, so if there is an emergency, it's a humanitarian emergency caused by the bombs we sell the Saudis,” the senator added.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Murph’s remarks and the US State Department declined to comment.
Washington’s arms dealings with Riyadh has come under scrutiny over the Saudi-led war against Yemen, which has left a heavy civilian death toll, and the gruesome state-sponsored murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 have sparked criticisms of close Washington-Riyadh ties among American lawmakers.
Last month, a bipartisan majority in Congress voted to halt US support for the protracted Saudi military aggression against Yemen but Trump vetoed the legislation.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, three US officials told NBC News that the Trump administration was poised to unveil arms sales to Saudi Arabia, without elaborating on more details.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stressed that he would oppose the government if it decided to go around Congress, citing Khashoggi’s killing.
“We are not going to have business as usual until that issue is dealt with,” Graham told CNN.
Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest arms client, with over $129 billion in approved purchases.