Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has warned of a White House plan to sell arms to Saudi Arabia in spite of a ban by Congress.
“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,” he tweeted on Wednesday 22 May.
Sources told Reuters there are provisions in America’s Arms Control Act that the president could use to approve a sale without congressional review – in case of a national emergency.
In this case, they added, President Trump could cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important US partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.
However, any such plan would run into resistance in Congress, and from Trump's fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, as well as he Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority.
A handful of Republicans recently voted with Democrats in a failed effort to override Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s devastating civil war.
Many lawmakers from both parties have also expressed anger over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest congressional allies, told CNN he would oppose the administration 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 said.
The State Department declined comment and the White House did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, who review major international weapons deals, have been approving sales of defensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
But they have been holding off on the sale of weapons such as bombs, anti-tank missiles, small-diameter rockets and large mortars.