Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee, Mitt Romney split on Trump's Saudi Arabia arms sale

Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee, Mitt Romney split on Trump's Saudi Arabia arms sale

(Cheryl Diaz Meyer, KSL File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee has signed on to a Democratic-backed effort to block President Donald Trump's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other countries, saying "Congress has ceded too much authority to the executive branch."

Lee, R-Utah, also said the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will support their involvement in the ongoing civil war in Yemen that Lee has strongly opposed.

But Sen. Mitt Romney is not among the four Republicans so far who are co-sponsoring a series of resolutions of disapproval, giving Senate Democrats enough votes to stall the $8 billion deal.

Still, Romney, R-Utah, has some reservations, even though he backs the sale.

“I support the Saudi arms sale," Romney told The Hill. "I’m concerned about the process the administration has undertaken, and that’s something I’m taking a look at.”

Lee railed against the process in a statement issued Wednesday, after he joined fellow Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana in opposing the deal.

"Circumventing Congress to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE without following the standard statutory procedure undermines Congress' role in conducting oversight of the arms sales process and ignores the rule of law," he said.

What he said is a "rarely used emergency loophole" being used by the president to make a total of 22 sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan "highlights the unfortunate reality that Congress has ceded too much authority to the executive branch."

Trump has invoked an emergency provision in the federal arms exports law to bypass a congressional review period, amid concerns about Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen's civil war as well as in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Lee said the sales "will support Saudi Arabia and the UAE waging war in Yemen, even though it is long past time that we end U.S. involvement in this unauthorized, unjustified and immoral war that has caused immense suffering."

In April, Lee and Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, were the only members of the state's delegation to vote for a resolution calling on Trump to remove U.S. forces from Yemen, later vetoed by the president.

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