"Indifferent to Yemen's Misery," Senate Approves Massive Saudi Arms Deal

Update 4pm EST:

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to dismiss a bipartisan bill that would have blocked a massive $1.15 billion weapons shipment to Saudi Arabia, to the dismay of peace groups and rights advocates who have called on the U.S. to end its support for the brutal Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen.

The bipartisan resolution to block the weapons sale failed 71-27, with two senators not voting.

During the floor debate, many of those in favor of the weapons sale echoed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who declared: “This is a sale that benefits us.” Although even Corker admitted Saudi Arabia is not a “perfect ally” and that many civilians had been killed in Yemen, he argued that the massive sale of new weapons should be approved because it will benefit the U.S. economically. Corker further claimed that arming the Saudi regime serves U.S. geopolitical interests by pushing back against the Iranians, who support the anti-Saudi Houthi factions in Yemen.

Voting in favor of the arms deal were right-wing senators such as Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alongside several centrist Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“The courage and common sense of a minority of senators will be cold comfort to the millions of Yemenis struggling to survive without adequate food or health services amidst daily bombing and shelling.”
—Ray Offenheiser, Oxfam AmericaBut many progressives said that they were at least heartened to see the much-ignored issue of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in Yemen be debated publicly on Capitol Hill—and urged elected officials to sustain that debate.

“For nearly a year and a half, the United States has fueled a conflict that has threatened the lives of millions in Yemen without any meaningful debate. The parties fighting this war—including the Saudi-led coalition supported by the U.S.—have demonstrated a startling indifference to civilian lives,” said Oxfam America president Ray Offenheiser. “Today, for the first time since the war in Yemen began, 27 senators voiced the first cries of dissent against our government’s unconditional and unlimited support for the Saudi-led coalition.”

“The very fact that we are voting on [this resolution to block the arms sale] today sends a very important message to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that we are watching your actions closely and that the United States is not going to turn a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said during the floor debate.

“Today’s vote should […] be the beginning, not the end, of a larger debate involving America’s involvement in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military campaign has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths,” peace advocacy group Win Without War wrote.

“Of course, the courage and common sense of a minority of senators will be cold comfort to the millions of Yemenis struggling to survive without adequate food or health services amidst daily bombing and shelling,” Offenheiser added. “Today, millions of Yemenis are on the verge of starvation and more than 10,000 children under 5 have died from preventable diseases. Every tank, missile, and gallon of jet fuel supplied by the U.S. to the Saudi-led coalition is a clear signal that the U.S. is indifferent to Yemen’s misery.”

The full roll call follows (alphabetical by senator):

Alexander (R-TN),
Ayotte (R-NH),
Baldwin (D-WI),
Barrasso (R-WY),
Bennet (D-CO),
Blumenthal (D-CT),
Blunt (R-MO),
Booker (D-NJ),
Boozman (R-AR),
Boxer (D-CA),
Brown (D-OH),
Burr (R-NC),
Cantwell (D-WA),
Capito (R-WV),
Cardin (D-MD),
Carper (D-DE),
Casey (D-PA),
Cassidy (R-LA),
Coats (R-IN),
Cochran (R-MS),
Collins (R-ME),
Coons (D-DE),
Corker (R-TN),
Cornyn (R-TX),
Cotton (R-AR),
Crapo (R-ID),
Cruz (R-TX),
Daines (R-MT),
Donnelly (D-IN),
Durbin (D-IL),
Enzi (R-WY),
Ernst (R-IA),
Feinstein (D-CA),
Fischer (R-NE), Flake (R-AZ),
Franken (D-MN),
Gardner (R-CO),
Gillibrand (D-NY),
Graham (R-SC),
Grassley (R-IA),
Hatch (R-UT),
Heinrich (D-NM),
Heitkamp (D-ND),
Heller (R-NV),
Hirono (D-HI),
Hoeven (R-ND),
Inhofe (R-OK),
Isakson (R-GA),
Johnson (R-WI),
Kaine (D-VA),
King (I-ME),
Kirk (R-IL),
Klobuchar (D-MN),
Lankford (R-OK),
Leahy (D-VT),
Lee (R-UT),
Manchin (D-WV),
Markey (D-MA),
McCain (R-AZ),
McCaskill (D-MO),
McConnell (R-KY),
Menendez (D-NJ),
Merkley (D-OR),
Mikulski (D-MD),
Moran (R-KS),
Murkowski (R-AK),
Murphy (D-CT),
Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL),
Paul (R-KY),
Perdue (R-GA),
Peters (D-MI),
Portman (R-OH),
Reed (D-RI),
Reid (D-NV),
Risch (R-ID),
Roberts (R-KS),
Rounds (R-SD),
Rubio (R-FL),
Sanders (I-VT),
Sasse (R-NE),
Schatz (D-HI),
Schumer (D-NY),
Scott (R-SC),
Sessions (R-AL),
Shaheen (D-NH),
Shelby (R-AL),
Stabenow (D-MI),
Sullivan (R-AK),
Tester (D-MT),
Thune (R-SD),
Tillis (R-NC),
Toomey (R-PA),
Udall (D-NM),
Vitter (R-LA),
Warner (D-VA),
Warren (D-MA),
Whitehouse (D-RI),
Wicker (R-MS),
Wyden (D-OR),

 

Earlier:

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Following peace activists’ and human rights advocates’ months-long calls for an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen, a bipartisan bill to block a planned $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia is currently being debated in the U.S. Senate, with a vote on the bill scheduled for this afternoon.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

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