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Senate fails to block arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar

The Senate failed to pass two resolutions Thursday intended to block arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar.
The resolutions, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), are part of a broader effort to curb the president’s authority on U.S. foreign policy. The measure to block arms sales to Bahrain failed in a 43-56 vote, while the effort to block arms sales to Qatar failed 42-57.
Paul’s resolutions come amid growing bipartisan frustration over the Trump administration’s close ties to Saudi Arabia, particularly after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed Khashoggi’s killing.
Paul is also working with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Before the vote, Paul said in a floor speech that the Middle East is a “hot cauldron” and the United States should approve arms sales based on the behavior of other countries.
“We are told that because of Iran’s threat, the U.S. must accept selling arms to anyone who opposes Iran, even bone saw-wielding countries brazen enough to kill a dissident in a foreign consulate,” Paul said, referring to the murder of Khashoggi. “What would happen if we just said no?”
Paul, who regularly espouses a noninterventionist foreign policy, further slammed the United States’ role in the ongoing war in Yemen and said members are so focused on opposing Iran that “they can’t understand that they’re giving weapons to people who are giving weapons to enemies of the United States.”
The measures faced significant opposition from members of the Republican caucus. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) defended the United States’ selling of arms to Bahrain and Qatar, noting that the sales would bring in $3 billion to the United States and increase American safety abroad. He also warned against Iran’s ongoing threat to the region.
“It’s essential we support our Gulf partners during this dangerous time so they can defend themselves from Iranian aggression and its proxies,” Cotton said. “Instead of helping Qatar and Bahrain to confront a common adversary, some of my colleagues want to hang them out to dry.”
The votes split the Republican and Democratic caucuses. In addition to Paul, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined 40 Democrats in voting in favor of the resolution disapproving of arms sales to Bahrain. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Lee and Paul, voted in favor of the Qatar resolution, while Moran voted against it.