U.S. Senate vote likely next week on blocking Trump's massive UAE arms sale

U.S. President Donald Trump responds to a question from a reporter after a medal ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he expected lawmakers would vote as soon as next week on resolutions seeking to block Republican President Donald Trump’s $23 billion weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates.

“We are gathering support for it, and I would think some time next week,” Senator Bob Menendez told reporters.

Menendez and two other senators - fellow Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Rand Paul - announced on Nov. 18 that they would introduce measures seeking to halt the effort to sell drones, F-35 aircraft and other weapons systems to the UAE.

The sale includes products from privately held General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s and missiles made by Raytheon.

Menendez said he hoped more Republicans would support the resolutions. It would take extensive support from members of Trump’s party - who rarely break from the president - to pass the resolutions and override an expected veto from Trump.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a foreign relations panel member and acting Intelligence Committee chairman, said he had not yet decided whether he would support the resolutions. Like other lawmakers, he said he was left with unanswered questions after Trump administration briefings on the sale.

Rubio said one of his concerns was how the sale to the UAE would affect Israel, and another involved a matter he could not discuss publicly.

The huge sale could alter the balance of power in the Middle East, and members of Congress have chafed at Trump’s attempt to rush it through, having sent a formal notice to Congress only in mid-November.

Many lawmakers also worry about whether the UAE would use the weapons in attacks that would harm civilians in the war in Yemen, already one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum