The Senate voted on Tuesday to approve a widely criticized $500 million sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, narrowly beating back a bipartisan effort to block the deal.
The final tally was 53-47 in favor of the sale, which is just part of a massive $100 billion arms package.
Among the sponsors of the resolution put forth to block the sale was Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who argued that despite the opposition’s defeat, the effort nonetheless sent a “strong message” to Saudi Arabia.
“A bipartisan coalition of Senators just sent a major message to the Saudis,” Murphy said in a statement. “Today’s vote total would’ve been unthinkable not long ago, but Congress is finally taking notice that Saudi Arabia is using U.S. munitions to deliberately hit civilian targets inside Yemen.”
Human rights groups echoed this sentiment while arguing that to continue to arm a persistent violator of human rights and funder of extremism is to be complicit in both.
In a statement released following the vote, Alexandra Schmitt of Human Rights Watch wrote, “Dozens of US Senators just sent a powerful message to Saudi Arabia: they—unlike President Donald Trump—want to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, a country that has repeatedly used US weapons in attacks that likely constitute war crimes. Forty-seven senators voted to block a US$510 million weapons deal, meaning it was only 6 votes short of passing.”
Jodie Evans, co-founder of the anti-war group CODEPINK, had a sharp message for those who voted for the deal.
“Voting for the weapons sale,” Evans said, “these Senators showed that they value the war profiteers more than lives of Yemenis and more than US national security.”
If lawmakers really cared about national security, she asked, “Would they vote to arm the regime most responsible for the spread of the Wahhabist ideology that forms the underpinnings of terrorist groups from Al Qaeda to ISIS? Would they vote to arm the regime that has funded and supported these terrorist groups?”
Yemenis, the victims of U.S.-backed Saudi aggression, feel “abandoned and betrayed” by the continued arms flow, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“With all the arms they have given to Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have achieved nothing after more than two years but killing civilians and destroying infrastructure.