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Khanna and Blumenthal Propose Bill to Cut All Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

The two Democrats proposed the bill after OPEC’s decision to slash oil production, which aims to keep gas prices up.

Rep. Ro Khanna speaks at a rally near the White House on April 27, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Ro Khanna announced Sunday that he is teaming up with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal on a bill to block all U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in response to Saudi-led OPEC’s newly announced decision to slash oil production, driving up gas prices across the globe.

In an op-ed for Politico, Khanna (D-Calif.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld argued that OPEC and Russia’s move to cut oil production by two million barrels per day starting in November will “worsen global inflation, undermine successful efforts in the U.S. to bring down the price of gas, and help fuel Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

“The Saudi decision was a pointed blow to the U.S., but the U.S. also has a way to respond: It can promptly pause the massive transfer of American warfare technology into the eager hands of the Saudis,” the trio wrote. “That is why we are proposing bicameral legislation in the Senate and House on Tuesday that will immediately halt all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”

“For several years now, our colleagues have been considering similar proposals, but those measures haven’t passed,” they added. “Due to intense bipartisan blowback to Saudi’s collusion with Russia, we think this time is different. Based on our conversation with colleagues, our legislation is already garnering bipartisan support in both chambers.”

According to one estimate, the U.S. agreed to sell roughly $64.1 billion worth of weapons — averaging over $10 billion a year — to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2020.

Arms sales to the Saudis, the largest purchaser of U.S. weaponry, have continued under the Biden administration despite its pledges to end the war on Yemen and render the oil kingdom a “pariah” over its assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

In the wake of OPEC’s announcement of a production cut aimed at propping up oil prices, calls for an end to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia intensified, with Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading the chorus.

“We must end OPEC’s illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy,” Sanders wrote in a social media post on Wednesday.

The Biden administration and Democratic leaders have said they’re exploring a range of responses to OPEC’s decision, but it’s unclear whether an end to military assistance to the Saudis is actively being discussed at the highest levels.

In their op-ed on Sunday, Khanna, Blumenthal, and Sonnenfeld noted that some members of Congress are proposing “extending domestic antitrust laws to international commerce” while others are calling for the revival of “a GOP initiative to withdraw U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia.”

“A simpler, far more urgent move to fortify U.S. national security would be to pause all U.S. military supplies, sales, and other weapons aid to Saudi Arabia,” Khanna, Blumenthal, and Sonnenfeld argued. “This includes the controversial, new, and hastily planned Red Sands testing facilities in Saudi Arabia.”

“U.S. military collaboration with the Saudi regime is more extensive than many realize, but that also gives the U.S. significant economic and security leverage over Riyadh,” they added. “Today, Saudi Arabia is hugely dependent on U.S. defense assistance, purchasing the vast majority of its arms from the United States… Saudi can do little to respond to this proposed legislation other than come back to the table and negotiate with the U.S. in good faith.”

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