Menendez Remarks in Support of Senate Debate of Resolutions of Disapproval for Arm Sales to Bahrain, Qatar
“Given the Administration’s decision last month to completely flout Congressional review over arms sales, I am supporting this motion in order to once again emphasize the importance of Congressional oversight and due diligence.”
WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate Floor on two Joint Resolutions of Disapproval by Senator Rand Paul that seek to block proposed arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar. In his remarks, the Senator announced that though he would ultimately oppose the disapproval of the sales, he would vote in support of Senator Paul’s right to seek full consideration by the Senate.
Today’s vote comes ahead of the expected Floor debate next week on 22 separate Resolutions of Disapproval filed by Menendez, Paul and others after the Trump Administration’s attempted to circumvent Congress’ review authority for 22 different arm sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Below are the Senator’s remarks as delivered:
“I rise in support of the motion to discharge Sen. Paul’s Joint Resolution S. J. Res. 20 from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the hopes of having an urgently-needed discussion about these sales.
“Over the past two weeks, Congress’ legally mandated role in the arms’ sales process has recently garnered a lot of attention among the members of this body and among the American people. Reviewing and approving arms sales across the world is a core function of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is an integral exercise of congressional oversight of the Executive Branch. And it is legally-mandated.
“So as we consider Senator Paul’s resolutions today regarding arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain, I would first like to make a few points of clarification.
“First, the resolutions of disapproval before us today are completely unrelated to the Administration’s bogus “emergency” notification of 22 sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as the 22 resolutions I filed with a bipartisan group of Senators in objection to them.
“Second, the resolutions before us today have already gone through the regular committee process.
“As is normal procedure, the Administration notified us of these sales. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee then conducted our due diligence; after which we in fact agreed with the Administration that these sales should go forward.
“However, I do support the Senator from Kentucky’s right to seek full consideration of them by the Senate. Given the Administration’s decision last month to completely flout Congressional review over arms sales, I am supporting this motion in order to once again emphasize the importance of Congressional oversight and due diligence.
“With that in mind, I appreciate Senators Paul, Graham Young, and Lee’s cosponsorship of my 22 resolutions of disapproval regarding the Administration’s so-called emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one in this body disturbed by this President’s willingness to bypass Congress and sell this weaponry without any consideration of the recent events that have strained our relationship with Saudi Arabia. I certainly look forward to a more robust debate and vote on those sales next week.
“But let me start by saying that I placed holds on specific sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE over serious, credible concerns that these weapons were being used to target civilians. Through the regular review process, I sought answers from the State Department about how these sales were promoting our interests, what steps we were taking to get guarantees from the Saudis and Emiratis that these weapons were being used in a way consistent with our interests, with international humanitarian law, and with respect to human rights.
“After the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Department of State ceased engaging with me on these questions and did not respond to inquiries about how these sales were furthering U.S. interests or about our relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is unacceptable. They could have engaged. They chose not to.
“The bottom line is that we are a co-equal branch of government and we cannot stay silent when any Administration attempts to override or circumvent legally-mandated oversight by Congress.
“The United States sells a significant amount of weapons to Gulf countries. But given the rhetoric and the behavior coming out of this Administration, the last thing we should be doing is weakening our scrutiny over arms sales.
“Let’s remember why we pursue these sales in the first place. Arms sales are one of our many tools to promote America’s foreign policy and military objectives. We use arms sales to bring like-minded countries in line with our goals and to promote interoperability with American defense systems.
“As Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have always been diligent in reviewing every arms sale proposed by this Administration – including these sales to Bahrain and Qatar. Through our standard process, I reviewed and cleared these sales for consideration by the Senate as part of our normal statutory procedures.
“Turning to this particular sale to Bahrain, which I believe it is in our interest at this moment.
Make no mistake, I have serious concerns about Bahrain’s human rights record – concerns I’ve made clear to the Bahraini government and the State Department.
“I’ll be the first to say Bahrain does not have a blank check for weapons systems from the United States. However, I am mindful that Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s fifth fleet.
“This package of upgraded F-16’s and related munitions will help Bahrain effectively defend its territory, including U.S. Navy facilities, as well as participate in multinational efforts like the former coalition against ISIS in Syria.
“Regarding the other resolution concerning Qatar, I note that Qatar has requested additional attack helicopters to fill its operational requirements, including enhancing their long-term defensive and offensive capability and ability to protect key oil and gas infrastructure and platforms important to U.S. and western economic interests. And Qatar faces threats from everywhere, not the least is from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“Finally, I note that Qatar continues to host United States armed forces at al-Udeid airbase, providing critical support to U.S. national security capabilities in the region.
“So while I support his right to have these resolutions considered, it is for these reasons that I will ultimately oppose the Senator from Kentucky’s resolutions to disapprove these sales.”
Juan Pachon 202-224-4651
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