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Menendez Speaks Ahead of Senate Passage of his 22 Resolutions Blocking Trump Admin’s Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor ahead of a series of votes on his 22 joint resolutions of disapproval to block the Trump Administration’s unprecedented attempt to push through over $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE based on a false emergency and without Congressional consent. Following this speech, the Senate voted in support of blocking the sales.

“Mr. President, I come to the floor again to urge my colleagues to stand up for the Congress as a co-equal branch of government and assert our institutional prerogative in the arms sales process.

I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have joined with me in this effort to bring us here today

And as we get ready to vote on these resolutions I want to again remind my colleagues what is at stake here.

Yes, it is beyond disturbing that President Trump continues to cover for Saudi Arabia’s transgressions, but at the end of the day these votes are not about any one President or any one arms sale.

Let me remind my colleagues that there will be another president in the White House someday. There will be another president who will want to claim executive authorities to run over Congress, who will want to use emergency declarations to push through their agenda.

We in this body must embrace our Article I responsibilities and ensure that we serve as effective check on that executive.

Regarding these resolutions in particular, we must both assert our role in upholding the rule of law at home, and use our position to ensure that when our government seeks to sell weapons, those sales advance our national security interests and our values.

Congress has a major role in the arms sales process. Lest anyone forget, Article 1 of the Constitution vests the Congress – not the President – with the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.

And, it is the Congress that provided the president with the authority to sell arms while retaining strong oversight in the process.

At the risk of getting in the weeds, I want to briefly explain why Secretary Pompeo’s twenty-two emergency certifications don’t meet the basic requirements laid out by Congress in the Arms Export Control Act.

First of all, Secretary Pompeo provided us with one single “emergency” declaration for twenty-two separate arms sales when the law requires each come with its own individual justification.

It’s obvious why the Secretary flouted the statute: his bogus emergency doesn’t pass the laugh test in general.

Furthermore, the Secretary is trying to justify these sales by relying on a section of the Arms Export Control Act – Article 36(c) – that arguably does NOT grant him the authority to do what he’s trying to do!

Congress made fairly clear back in 2000 that this provision only allows for the United States to make emergency arms sales in very limited situations—For example, to sell arms to NATO partners and other steadfast allies like Israel, Australia, and Japan.

This is a power grab, pure and simple, with lasting implications for the role of Congress in the sale of arms around the world. We cannot as an institution stand for it.

Now, let me turn to these proposed sales.

As a number of colleagues and I have already laid out, the Administration’s argument that there is an “emergency” meriting pushing through eight billion dollars’ worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates simply does not pass muster.

The weapons sales this Administration is trying to push through without Congressional review will not in any way equip the United States or our allies to better face of any ‘imminent’ threats from Iran.

Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper admitted as much multiple times last week before the House of Representatives. 

In one instance he noted that the Administration had been considering this ‘emergency’ determination for months. Months!

In another, he conceded that a majority of these sales will not even be functional or come online for months or even years. Years!

So let’s take a moment to review why last year I decided to put a hold on one sale of 60,000 precision guided munition kits.

Saudi Arabia, at the helm of its coalition, has used these weapons to devastating effects in Yemen.

The two resolutions we’ll consider individually relate to sales of precision guided munitions and parts. We’ve heard that these weapons are humanitarian weapons, but when they are used to precisely target civilians, how can we continue to sell them?

These are components of bombs that we know have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen. Patients in hospitals. Children on school buses.

In fact, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, just this week released data showing that more than 90,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015. And the list goes on.

Yemen has become a humanitarian catastrophe. 12,000 people have died under the Saudi-led coalition

More than 85,000 children have died from starvation in Yemen, an almost incomprehensible moral tragedy.

Another nearly 14 million people remain at risk, especially as cholera resurges across the country. This is the challenge we have. And these are our bombs that are dropping on those civilians. We cannot morally continue to support such a sale. That’s going on here, too.

If the Senate wants to show the world that, even if you are an ally you cannot kill with impunity, this is the moment. It’s also the moment to tell the UAE that you can’t take our weapons and sell it or give it to others who we consider people on the terrorist list. Stand up for the proposition that we won’t let any allies, just because they’re an ally, kill, with impunity, a journalist—something that we cherish under our Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the freedom of expression under the First Amendment. And stand up for the proposition that we won’t let our bombs fall upon innocent civilians and have the moral responsibility which will be a blemish on our history for years to come.

This is the moment for the Senate to stand up for its institutional prerogatives. This is the moment for the Senate to stand up for the Constitution. I’ve heard so many of my colleagues speak about the Constitution—this is the moment. This is the moment to stand up for some moral clarity. This is the moment to send a global message: you cannot kill journalists with impunity. That is the message we must send to Saudi Arabia.

Vote yes on the resolutions of disapproval. Stand up for these propositions, and let’s have a moment in which the Senate can be a profile in courage. With that, I yield the floor.”