A group of Republican and Democrat senators teamed up on Tuesday to block the United States from completing part of a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia, but fell short of the votes they needed on the Senate floor.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a resolution disapproving of President Trump's plan to sell Saudi Arabia $510 million of precision-guided munitions, which make up a portion of the $110 billion deal Trump announced during his visit there.
The Senate failed to advance the resolution in a 47-53 vote, although supporters of the measure picked up new support since they last tried to block a similar deal last year. Last September, the Senate voted 26-71 to defeat similar language that opposed a $1.15 billion deal Saudi Arabia reached with the Obama administration.
This time around, however, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined Paul and Murphy to vote for the measure, along with many other Democrats.
Tuesday's vote followed a string of floor speeches from lawmakers criticizing Saudi Arabia over a broad range of human rights issues, in particular the nation's treatment of Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis is raging and where its weapons are likely to be aimed.
Paul displayed a large poster depicting a starving Yemeni child while he called on fellow lawmakers to back his resolution.
"We will force this vote for these children in Yemen because we have a chance today to stop the carnage," Paul said. "We have a chance to tell Saudi Arabia, we've had enough."
Paul also cited evidence of Saudi involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and called it "the number one exporter of jihadist philosophy the number one exporter of ‘let's hate America.'''
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was among the few supporting the sale publicly on the floor. He argued the United States should provide weapons support to the Saudis because they are a key U.S. ally and are fighting against Iranian expansion.
"It is absolutely essential that the Saudi air force get these weapons to win the fight against the aggressive nature of Iran and Yemen and other places," Graham said.
Graham chastised Democrats who supported the resolution, and noted that many of them backed a different arms deal when it was proposed in September by Obama.
"What's changed between Sept. 21 and today?" Graham asked in his floor speech. "Nothing other than the election of Donald Trump. Everything Trump you seem to be against. That is disappointing and frankly despicable."
Murphy denied the motives were political and said the weapons deal proposed by Obama was different.
Murphy said there is evidence that the Saudis have been targeting water treatment facilities in their bombing campaign of Yemen. He said the attacks on Yemen are "not going well" and are also "hurting the United States," which is being blamed for the bombing campaign.
Murphy said the Senate should hold off on the sale, "until we get clear assurances from the Saudis that they are going to use the weapons only for military purposes," and will begin to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.