- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a bipartisan bill that limits President Trump’s ability to opt out of a congressional review on controversial arms deals by citing a national emergency.

The committee passed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, on Tuesday and backed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Despite support from members on both sides of the aisle, the legislation failed to receive the approval from committee Chairman Sen. James Risch, Idaho Republican.

The vote to move the legislation forward comes days after a group of Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to invoke a “national security emergency” last month to skip a congressional review process for the sale of $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Tuesday’s vote is the latest move in a series of attempts by lawmakers to block the Trump administration’s bid to push the multi-billion dollar weapons deals through. Last week, Mr. Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, formally started the process for the Senate to block the Trump administration from closing on the set 22 deals to Saudi Arabia and the Untied Arab Emirates.

Congressional opposition to the deal reflects unhappiness with Riyadh over its human rights records, its military campaign in neighboring Yemen, and the role of top officials in the killing of dissident, U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last fall.

In May, the administration sought to bypass a congressional review process for the proposed sale by invoking a national security waiver in the Arms Export Control Act, which states that Congress has 30 days to review an arms agreement before it is finalized.

That move angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who argued such a deal requires congressional approval.

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