WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate rejected a resolution on Tuesday that would have prohibited the proposed sale of advanced medium range air-to-air missiles, missile launchers and other weapons and support to Saudi Arabia.
The vote was 67 to 30 against the resolution, which was introduced by Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee, as well as Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats.
While many U.S. lawmakers consider Saudi Arabia an important partner in the Middle East, members of Congress also have criticized the country for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
“Exporting more missiles to Saudi Arabia does nothing but further this conflict and pour more gasoline on already raging fire,” Sanders said in a speech urging support for the resolution of disapproval.
They have refused to approve military sales for the kingdom without assurances U.S. equipment would not be used to kill civilians. Backers of the sale noted that President Joe Biden’s administration has already barred U.S. sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“I completely agree with the need to hold Saudi leadership accountable for a variety of actions… but I also believe that it is important that our security partners know that we will uphold our commitments,” said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The weapons package, which was approved by the State Department as well as leaders of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees, would include 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRL) along other equipment and support,
Raytheon Technologies makes the missiles.
The Biden administration said earlier on Tuesday it strongly opposed the resolution.
Passage “would undermine the president’s commitment to aid in our partner’s defenses at a time of increased missile and drone attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia,” the White House Office of Management of Budget said in a statement.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates)