(Bloomberg) — The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned the Trump administration not to bypass a congressional hold to sell billions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.
“I am deeply concerned about the rumors that the administration plans to bypass Congress and sell weapons to foreign governments, including the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia,” Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement Thursday.
“The possible consequences of this will ultimately jeopardize the ability of the U.S. defense industry to export arms in a manner both expeditious and responsible,” he said. “I will pursue all appropriate legislative and other means to nullify these and any planned ongoing sales should the administration move forward in this manner.”
It’s been more than a year since Menendez blocked $2 billion worth of precision-guided munitions kits to Saudi Arabia and another $1 billion worth of the same kits to the United Arab Emirates.
On Wednesday, the New Jersey Democrat said in an interview he heard “rumblings” that the administration planned to use an emergency declaration to circumvent the hold, and he warned that that such action would set a “dangerous precedent” and unlock “a whole host of other actions.”
His remarks followed a tweet from Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, saying President Donald Trump may use a loophole in the Arms Control Act “in a way that will prevent Congress from objecting.”
Menendez’s hold on the sale has lasted much longer than it usually takes Congress to review arms deals. Both Democrats and Republicans have urged the U.S. to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the October killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi and for its role in Yemen’s civil war.
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