The Senate will allow the U.S. to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia after unanimously deciding to let Americans sue the country for its connection to the 9/11 terror attacks.
It voted to dismiss a bill that would have prohibited a $1.15 billion sale of 153 tanks, machine guns, grenade launchers and ammunition to Saudi Arabia. At least 20 of the tanks are needed to replace vehicles destroyed during Saudi Arabia’s engagement in Yemen’s civil war, the Department of State said when it approved the sale in August.
The legislation, introduced by Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, failed in a 71 to 27 vote.
Paul pointed to the irony of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia a week after Congress voted unanimously to allow U.S. citizens to sue the country for its connection to 15 of the 19 terrorists who committed the 9/11 terror attacks.
“It’s not like whoops, Saudi Arabia is sometimes wrong and they’re not that bad,” Paul said during the floor debate leading up to the vote. “They have a horrific human rights record. There are people who believe them to be complicit in 9/11. This body voted unanimously to let the 9/11 victims sue them, and now this body wants to give them weapons. Does no one sense the irony?”
Paul concluded his remarks saying the vote was, “a proxy vote for whether we should be at war in the Middle East,” since neither Republican leadership or the Democratic minority would “allow a vote on whether or not we should authorize force.”
“This is a vote about whether we should be at war in Yemen,” Paul said before the vote.
Saudi Arabia’s bombing against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels is responsible for around 60 percent of the 3,799 civilian deaths in Yemen in the past 18 months, the United Nations reported in August.
“Everyone who loses their life [in Yemen civil war] believes that its not only Saudi Arabia bombing them. They believe that it’s us,” Paul said.
The opponents of Paul’s legislation said weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other allies in the region are a check against Iran’s power in the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia is not a perfect ally, but they have chosen to pursue and purchase US equipment versus Russian equipment or Chinese equipment,” Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said.
Rep. Ted Lieu proposed identical legislation in the House Sept. 20, but the legislation will likely not come to the floor for a vote after the Senate dismissed its own version.
U.S. weapons sales to foreign nations exploded under President Barack Obama, culminating in a record $46 billion for 2015. Since Obama took office, the U.S. has sold $115 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The last time Congress passed legislation blocking a sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia was in 1986. Then-President Ronald Reagan vetoed a Senate bill that would have stopped an order of Harpoon and Sidewinder missiles and launchers. The Senate vote to overturn the veto failed by one vote, and the sale went through.
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Cross-posted from The Daily Caller.