Earlier this year the Trump administration faced major bipartisan backlash when it declared an emergency in order to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to multiple countries and Senator Ted Cruz is jumping in with his own harsh tongue lashing for Trump: “Follow the damn law.”
The emergency declaration, which dealt specifically with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others, drew much criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike and a recent hearing on foreign arms sales was held where the Texas Senator and one time presidential hopeful laid out his blunt message for the Trump administration.
Cruz says he understands and offers support of the selling of arms to regional partners and he voted nay on a resolution which disapproved of the sales earlier this summer but during the hearing on Wednesday he fired directly at the Trump administration for how they handled the situation earlier this year.
Sen. Cruz took specific issue with Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper and said,
“I voted with the administration on the substance because of the threat of Iran but I’ll tell you from my end, if the administration does it again and there is not a live and exigent emergency, you will not have my vote and I predict you will not have the vote of a number of other Republicans as well. The simpler process is follow the damn law and respect it.”-Sen. Ted Cruz
He continued his tirade, “The process that the State Department followed for these weapons sales, not to point too fine a point on it, was crap… Under the law, under the Arms Export Control Act, the administration needs congressional approval and has a 30-day notification period. And for whatever reason, the administration in what seems to me a not fully baked decision process, decided to circumvent the law, decided to circumvent the constitutional responsibility of Congress and act unilaterally.”
Cruz’s comments have drawn the attention from Democratic lawmakers like Delaware Sen. Chris Coons who thanked Cooper for setting them up for a “rare moment of bipartisanship on this committee” saying, “I want to compliment you, Assistant Secretary Cooper, on managing to achieve a rare moment of bipartisanship on this committee. I will tell you it is not often that my colleague from Texas and I agree completely on a matter.”
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially announced the plan and cited the pre-existing rule that allowed the expedition of $8.1 billion in arms sales to Middle Eastern countries, it received much of its criticism because of human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, notably the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
When Cooper appeared at the hearing, as he had done last month in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he maintained the argument that declaring an emergency was the right choice for several reasons, including addressing Iranian threats and also as a show of support to our allies in the region. Cooper said, “These sales and the associated emergency certification are intended to address the military need of our partners in the face of an urgent regional threat posed by Iran; promote the vitality of our bilateral relationships by reassuring our partners; and preserve strategic advantage against near-peer competitors.”
Unfortunately those comments were just empty words to lawmakers, left and right the same, who do NOT believe the emergency declaration was at all necessary. Leading the pack of protesting voices is Sen. Bob Menendez, who said,
“If you look at these sales, it appears that the administration had other motives. Indeed, when pressed, rather than explain exactly how these sales will address a supposedly imminent threat from Iran, you and other administration officials demurred and said the sales were for ‘sustaining the global supply chain’; for preventing ‘loss of sale to peer-competitors’; for maintaining US ‘credibility as an arms supplier’; and so on.”-Sen. Bob Menendez