U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a campaign event with U.S. Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia
U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a campaign event with U.S. Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia, U.S., December 5, 2020. REUTERS/Dustin Chambers

December 9, 2020

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An effort to stop President Donald Trump’s high-tech weapons deals with the United Arab Emirates fell short on Wednesday in the U.S. Senate as Trump’s fellow Republicans opposed resolutions of disapproval seeking to block the sale of drones and advanced F-35 fighter jets.

The Senate voted 50-46 and 49-47, mostly along party lines, to stop consideration of the resolutions, killing them at least until President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Biden, a Democrat, is expected to review the sales.

Early on Wednesday, the Trump administration had issued a formal notice of its intention to veto the measures if they passed the Senate and House of Representatives.

The White House said the sales support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by “enabling the UAE to deter increasing Iranian aggressive behavior and threats” in the wake of its recent peace deal with Israel.

Backers of the sale also described the UAE as an important U.S. partner in the Middle East.

The two weapons packages are a major component of a planned $23 billion sale of high-tech armaments to the UAE. Opponents said the transactions were being rushed through, without sufficient assurances that the equipment would not fall into the wrong hands or fuel instability in the Middle East.

Some U.S. lawmakers also criticized the UAE for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

The administration told Congress in November it had approved the massive sale to the UAE of products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Some lawmakers also worried that the weapons transfers might violate U.S. guarantees that Israel will retain a military advantage in the region. But Israel, which enjoys strong support in Congress, has said it does not object to the sales.

Accusing Trump of cutting short or sidestepping Congress’ typical review of major weapons sales, lawmakers have tried repeatedly during Trump’s four-year presidency to block his plans for arms sales.

None of the efforts succeeded, either dying in the Republican-led Senate or, if passed, failing to win the two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House to override Trump’s vetoes.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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