Progressives seek to limit the administration’s ability to sell armaments and enter security agreements with Saudi Arabia ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit on Friday to the kingdom, The Hill reported on Wednesday.
The lawmakers have introduced several amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act whose intent is to constrain military backing to Riyadh, which is among the largest customers for U.S. weapons sales.
The State Department says that the U.S. has more than $126 billion in active foreign military sales with the Saudis.
The Democratic lawmakers proposing the limitations cite Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war and other human rights concerns, such as the kingdom’s 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly told The Hill that “justice is still waiting” regarding Khashoggi. “And to me, that means you suspend normal relations with a country whose leader did that. And so, I think we need some legislative guidance and direction circumscribing that relationship.”
An amendment Connolly is sponsoring, along with fellow Democrat Reps. Tom Malinowski (New Jersey) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), would impose temporary limits on weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and require reports and actions related to Khashoggi’s death.
The other amendment, which is sponsored by seven Democrats, would require the secretary of state to develop guidance for probing indications that U.S.-origin defense articles have been used in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition in “substantial violation of relevant agreements with countries participating in the coalition,” according to The Hill.
Votes on the amendments are expected later this week.
Biden last year released a declassified intelligence report saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s killing and also halted backing for Saudi-led operations in Yemen.
Reuters reported earlier this week that the Biden administration was considering lifting the U.S. ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar told The Hill that “I don’t think the president should be going back on his word and saying that he was going to make MBS [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] a pariah.”