US House also seeks to block Trump arms sales to Saudi Arabia

House lawmakers to grill State Department over Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

House lawmakers to grill State Department over Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Doing so, he added, would prevent the executive branch from repeating such a move in the future.

The administration had cited an unspecific threat from Iran to expedite more than $8 billion worth of weapons sales, the Post noted.

"Earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans rightfully voted to end USA engagement in the Saudi-led military campaign against Houthis in Yemen".

But with Republican Senate leaders committed to oppose the resolutions, it will be hard to overcome a presidential veto.

United States politicians first found out about the planned weapons deal with Saudi Arabia in May - just last month - after Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the United States Department of State, shared in front of Congress that the State Department would be exercising a loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to go forward with sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., began the hearing with R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, by accusing the administration of creating a "phony" emergency to justify the sales.

"The administration is trying to abuse the law in order to sell weapons to supposed ally Saudi Arabia and the UAE".

Cooper said the decision-making process "developed with the threat streams", but Pompeo has always known that the emergency declaration was an item in his "toolkit".

But Democrats were not having it - and Republicans were clearly uncomfortable with having been circumvented as well.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the panel's ranking Republican, said the deal represented an "unfortunate" use of military authority.

Before claiming the emergency exception, Trump had vetoed Congress' bipartisan resolution to stop supporting Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen, a campaign that's caused a humanitarian crisis in the region.

In his testimony, Cooper sought to assure skeptical committee Democrats that the emergency declaration did not signal the administration's intention to cut Congress out of the loop entirely when it comes to arms sales.

Lawmakers pressed Cooper on who was involved in the decision over the sale, and whether Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, was among them.

Should efforts fail to build a veto-proof coalition around that approach, Mr Young and Senator Chris Murphy, have proposed another, which would give lawmakers the chance to block the arms sales after requesting information on the human rights record of the recipient countries.

When asked on Tuesday whether the administration was wise to force the arms deals through by emergency declaration, acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan was more tight-lipped. "This action is not meant to be an escalatory military step; instead, it is a loud and clear message to Iran that we stand by our regional partners", Cooper will tell lawmakers in his opening testimony Wednesday. The Armed Conflict and Location Event Data (ACLED) Project recently estimated that over 70,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in the war since January 2016, with the Saudi-led coalition accounting for most of the over 7000 killed in direct attacks targeting civilians, and Save the Children says that over 100,000 Yemeni children have contracted cholera in 2019 alone.