Lindsey Graham is in ecstasy with the "crazy" and "dangerous" hereditary prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and said it in every camera and recorder that came close to him this week.
Wednesday by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the alleged guilt of MBS in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Graham told reporters: "Saudi Arabia is informed that business as usual has ended for me. the kingdom in the same way I looked at it. "
On Fox News, Tuesday night, Graham turned directly to President Trump, saying, "If you give this guy a ride, after he disrespects you, you will look weak and you will not want to look weak. Everyone is watching. "
One thing that Graham is doing, in particular, is not supporting the resolution sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, who will invoke the 1973 War Resolution to end the US support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
Instead, Graham presented his resolution Thursday, along with a bipartisan group of five other senators, who "holds the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, responsible for various crimes including the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the Killing of Khashoggi.
Although the measure is noteworthy in contradiction with the president, who insisted that there is no evidence that MBS was involved in Khashoggi's death, it does not in any way change US policy. It is certainly not the "ton of bricks" that Graham promised to break down on MBS after the Haspel briefing. Despite the performative outrage of recent weeks, a cynic might say that Graham is actually causing Trump and Saudis to interfere, giving Republicans and Democrats Democrats coverage to not vote for the Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution.
Still, some see real change from the senator who was once one of the most loyal supporters of the Saudis on Capitol Hill, indicating Graham's vote not to approve further arms sales to Saudi Arabia until the removal of MBS. But the mechanism by which the Senate would block arms sales is obscure. Much of this authority is based on long-standing informal agreements and norms.
By convention, the four ranking members of both parties in the House and Senate foreign relations commissions may suspend a sales proposal during an informal review period to obtain information from the administration. Senator Robert Menendez is currently doing this with the proposal to sell precision-guided ammunition kits in Saudi Arabia. But these sockets are intended as a tool for gathering information, not a permanent veto. And there is also nothing that legally impedes the administration of going forward anyway. "Ignoring Congress to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite a suspension or even wider action by the Senate would violate many regulations, but the norms are not those that were in this government", Jonathan Caverley, professor of strategy at the US Naval War College told me via e-mail.
Under the Arms Export Control Act, Congress can approve a joint disapproval resolution to block a weapons sale, which in practice would require a two-thirds majority to overcome a presidential veto. This never really happened, even though it almost did in 1986, forcing President Ronald Reagan to modify a proposal to sell rockets to the Saudis. This Congress challenged Trump on foreign policy before approving a veto-free majority against the new sanctions of Russia that he opposed, but the members could be shaky in their decision to punish a long-term US ally.
The Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution is not even a perfect solution. The Trump administration could object, as has been done in the past, that US involvement in the war, mainly air targeting assistance and intelligence sharing, does not constitute "hostility" as defined from the Resolution of War Powers. (Under pressure from Congress, the administration announced a halt in supply of air to Saudi coalition airplanes at the start of this month.) At least, the resolution is a new one and not proven application of the law. In the case of its passage, however, Saudi Arabia could continue to bomb Yemen without US intelligence.
But the resolution is, at the very least, an attempt by Congress to use the influence it has to force the administration to use leverage. it must end a humanitarian catastrophe.
Graham could have a better idea. But we have not heard yet.
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