US Senate panel advances Saudi sanctions measure

The legislation, which Trump opposes, would impose some sanctions on the Saudi royal family, block some weapons sales.

    A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul [File: Osman Orsal/Reuters]
    A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul [File: Osman Orsal/Reuters]

    The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday backed legislation that would impose some sanctions on the Saudi royal family and block some weapons sales, pushing back against President Donald Trump's close ties to the kingdom.

    The vote was 13-9 for the legislation, as three Republicans joined committee Democrats in backing the measure despite expected opposition from Trump.

    Many members of Congress have been agitating for months to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses, a growing number of civilian casualties in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen and including the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

    According to reports, US intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of Khashoggi, a conclusion Saudi officials deny.

    To become law, the measure must still pass the Republican-majority Senate, as well as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and either be signed by the Republican president or garner the two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress to override a veto.

    The committee's Republican chairman, Senator Jim Risch, opposed the bill, whose co-sponsors included Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's top Democrat, as well as Republicans Lindsey Graham and Todd Young.

    Risch said he wanted legislation to hold Riyadh accountable but argued that there was no point in passing a bill that Trump would veto. Menendez argued that there was no point in advancing legislation that would die in the House.

    The panel's vote came less than 24 hours after Trump vetoed three measures sent to his desk that would have blocked his administration's sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

    Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell said late on Wednesday that the Senate would vote before August 2 on whether to override the vetoes. 

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    But the three resolutions of disapproval are not expected to garner the two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate needed to override the president's decision. Only a handful of Trump's fellow Republicans, who hold 53 seats in the Senate, backed the resolutions when they passed last month.

    Supporters of the resolutions are unhappy with the Trump administration's decision in May to push ahead with more than eight billion dollars in military sales, sidestepping the congressional review process by declaring an "emergency" over tensions with Iran

    In his veto message, Trump said the resolutions would weaken US competitiveness and damage important relationships.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News