The Senate narrowly supported President Trump’s Saudi Arabia weapons deal on Tuesday, in a controversial vote that has Republicans divided. The vote saw 53 senators voting yes, and 47 voting no. The result means that the United States will move forward with the sale of $500 million of precision-guided munitions to the Middle Eastern nation.
While the move is far from universally popular, it’s a win for Donald Trump who just weeks ago announced his intention to sell $110 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia during his trip to Riyadh. Trump told the press and the nation that the deal will help Saudi Arabia fight surrounding nations supporting terrorism, while creating American jobs at the same time.
Senator Rand Paul is Not Happy
Libertarian and Republican Senator for Kentucky Rand Paul is not happy about the arms deal. Writing in a piece for Fox News, Paul asked why a year after voting overwhelmingly to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, senators are now supporting an arms deal with the country.
The firebrand senator also said that the United States must consider whether providing weapons to Saudi Arabia is beneficial to our ally in the Middle East, Israel. In his piece, he also said that the move could create a new arms race in the Middle East as Israel attempts to defend itself against Islamist neighbors.
Paul was joined by several Democratic senators in his attempt to slow down the sale. Senator Chuck Schumer from New York made an announcement on Monday that he was in clear opposition to the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. This meant that other senators from the left echoed Paul’s concerns on the Senate floor.
Paul spoke in the Senate, exclaiming that he was standing up for the many thousands of civilians who are currently being in Yemen. He also said that he was standing for the millions of children in Yemen without a voice who are being killed by the Saudis. He said that the United States should stop funding the Middle Eastern arms race, as it has come to no good.
A Strong Effort by Team Trump
The Trump administration spent hours before the Senate vote took place calling lawmakers in an attempt to win their support. Had the White House lost this vote, it would have been the first time in decades that a congressional vote rejected the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Last year, 71 senators to 26 voted in favor of selling arms worth $1.15 billion to Saudi Arabia.
The announcement by Schumer and other senators had the White House worried that he was giving Democrats an opportunity to send a message to Trump.
Andrea Prasow, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Washington, said that almost half the United States Senate sent a clear message to Riyadh that if they want support from the United States, then they must stop killing innocent civilians in Yemen.
She went on to call out the Trump administration, telling the White House to take notice of the vote and use it as a chance to push the Saudis to start changing the way they act in Yemen. She asked Trump and his administration to begin an effort to protect civilians, and to be transparent in the way they approach the war.
The conflict in Yemen started in 2014 when the Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, allied with rogue militant units and took control of Sana, the capital city. This pushed the official government into exile, and in 2015, Saudi Arabia’s militant factions have been bombing civilians in an attempt to retake control.