WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the U.S. Congress, including some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, are preparing legislation seeking to block his plan for $8 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, congressional aides and lawmakers said on Tuesday.
The first measures could be introduced within days, congressional aides said.
Declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, the Trump administration informed congressional committees on May 24 that it was going ahead with the 22 military deals, circumventing a long-standing precedent for lawmakers to review major weapons sales.
The decision angered members of both parties, who worried that Trump’s decision to blow through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to prevent not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.
The array of military products cleared for sale by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo included offensive equipment like precision-guided munitions, mortars and fighter jet engines, some of which would take many months to be produced and shipped, which lawmakers said belied the administration’s contention that it was addressing an emergency.
Some of the licenses would allow U.S. defense contractors like Raytheon Co and Boeing Co to run production lines in Saudi Arabia.
In the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, lawmakers were considering a bill that would require the 22 licenses approved by the administration to be pulled back and resubmitted through the regular notification procedure, including a 30-day congressional review, Democratic congressional aides said.
House members also may seek to rewrite the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 to impose tighter restrictions on the use of the “emergency authority” provision, tightening the loophole the Trump administration used to justify the sale so it could only be used for “true emergencies,” aides said.