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U.S. House Passes Spanberger-Led Resolution to Block Emergency Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia, Prevent Civilian Casualties in Yemen

Congresswoman’s Legislation Would Halt the Transfer of Offensive Precision-Guided Munitions to the Saudi-Led Coalition Currently Fighting Houthis in Yemen

Washington, July 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a joint resolution U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger led to block the sale of certain offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Under the administration’s emergency arms sale to Saudi Arabia, thousands of additional precision-guided munitions would transfer to Saudi coalition forces without Congressional review. Additionally, the United States would transfer the manufacturing technology needed to produce these weapons in Saudi Arabia. These wholly offensive weapons have been responsible for significant civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Spanberger’s resolution—which she introduced in the U.S. House last May—would reject the emergency transfer of these precision-guided munitions from the United States to Saudi Arabia. Her joint resolution is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—and a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate voted to pass the joint resolution last month.

Yesterday, Spanberger spoke on the floor in support of her resolution and urged her colleagues to reassert congressional authority in U.S. arms sales and to recognize the lethal potential of this transfer to Saudi Arabia. Click here to watch her full speech. A full transcript of her remarks is as follows:

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The evidence is clear—the Saudi government continues to disregard the vital distinction between combatants and innocent civilians in Yemen. In February, Congress voted to end U.S. support to the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis that has left thousands of civilians dead and created one of the largest humanitarian crises in modern times.

However, the President not only vetoed our resolution, but the Administration is now ramping up support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive actions in Yemen—while simultaneously escalating tensions with Iran.

As I made clear during Foreign Affairs Committee hearings in May, not only is the administration trying to sell the Saudis more powerful weapons, but we are giving them the opportunity to build their own. With this latest proposal, the administration would be transferring sensitive technology that would allow Saudi Arabia to manufacture these high-tech weapons directly.

Congress needs to reassert its authority now as a coequal branch of government. This resolution, which I have led in the House, would make sure blatantly offensive weapons aren’t sold to the Saudi military under the guise of defensive uses without Congressional review.

I am proud to work with my colleagues in the Senate to block the sale of precision-guided munitions, which are responsible for some of the most horrific examples of targeted attacks against civilians.

I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand up against this misguided decision, protect innocent lives, and reassert the authority of Congress.

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Last month in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Spanberger questioned the administration’s decision to circumvent Congress and to authorize a new emergency sale of high-tech arms to the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting Houthis in Yemen. She also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record of using weapons against civilian populations and the lack of assurance that these latest transfers would not be used in the same way. Click here to watch her full questions at the hearing.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger has advocated for a reexamined, smart strategy toward future U.S. military and diplomatic engagement in the Middle East—while also making sure we continue to support our close allies and partners and to remain strongly committed to counterterrorism operations. Last month, Spanberger joined a bipartisan group of House colleagues in introducing legislation that would halt all emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

And during her first House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in February, Spanberger highlighted the importance of holding recipients of U.S. security assistance accountable for violations of international law. Additionally, she questioned witnesses about how best to make sure American-supplied weapons are used for solely defensive purposes, rather than to fuel additional violence or escalate conflicts. Click here for a full video of her remarks.

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has also sought to strongly reassert the constitutional role of Congress in authorizing the use of U.S. military force—including on the Arabian Peninsula. Earlier this year, she joined a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House in passing a resolution that would remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities against the Houthis in Yemen, which were not authorized by Congress.

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