By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – House Democrats introduced new legislation Wednesday to stop U.S. President Donald Trump's administration from following through on a number of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
One resolution, introduced by congressman Ted Lieu, would block all 22 arms sales recently approved by the White House.
"The emergency declaration is nothing more than an egregious abuse of power by an administration that doesn’t like being told 'no'," Lieu said in press release.
"There is no emergency, but there is a conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians with U.S.-made weapons and a Congress that is tired of being complicit," he added.
Other measures were introduced to the House by lawmakers David Cicilline, Abigail Spanberger and Tom Malinowski that deal more specifically with transfers of "precision-guided munitions" which have been largely accused of being responsible for civilian casualties in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.
Last month, Trump invoked a rarely used provision of U.S. arms control laws to circumvent Congress and authorize weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies. While arms sales usually go through a 30-day congressional review period, the provision allows for this process to be skipped in the case of an emergency.
Congress was notified by the Trump administration of the invocation and was shown a deal comprising 22 separate arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan valued at $8.1 billion.
The administration cited heightened threats from Iran as a justification for the emergency, but it has infuriated lawmakers, including some of Trump's staunchest allies, who were holding up the sales because of humanitarian concerns with the Kingdom, including the civilian toll of its air campaign in Yemen and its grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
"The administration has presented us no evidence that the Gulf countries face any substantially new threat from Iran that would justify declaring an emergency, or that these weapons, which the Saudis need to keep bombing Yemen, would even be useful if such a threat arose," said Malinowski.
"If we allow these arms sales, the effect will be to prolong a war that does not serve U.S. interests while signaling to the Saudis that they can get away with anything. Congress must not let that happen."