President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed three resolutions that Congress passed to stop several arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which the president pushed through without congressional approval.
Earlier this month, bipartisan majorities – but not a veto-proof majority – in the House and Senate voted to block the arms deals, worth more than $8 billion.
The sales would replenish part of the Saudi arsenal that lawmakers say has been used against civilians in Yemen’s civil war. Many lawmakers also object to the idea of rewarding Saudi leaders after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The president announced in May that he would use emergency authority to push through the weapons sales that include missiles, munitions and surveillance aircraft.
“The misguided licensing prohibitions in the joint resolution directly conflict with the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” Trump said in all three White House statements declaring his vetos.
The Trump administration has insisted the arms sales are crucial to protect the region against a growing threat from Iran.
The vetoes come as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to vote Thursday on two competing bipartisan bills to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia. The president has resisted congressional efforts to punish Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses and Khashoggi’s murder, which U.S. intelligence officials say was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Lawmakers and international human rights organizations have accused Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen – enabled in part by the type of munitions Trump maneuvered to sell to Saudi leaders – of contributing to a crisis that has put 20 million Yemenis at risk of starvation and exposed hundreds of thousands to cholera.
“The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end,” Trump said in the veto statement. “But we cannot end it through ill-conceived and time-consuming resolutions that fail to address its root causes.”
Congress is unlikely to have the votes to override the veto, and does not have a consensus on how to proceed