Paul, Graham find common ground on Saudi Arabia
Lindsey Graham laughingly says his sudden embrace of Rand Paul is a sign of what the Bible calls “end times.” Rand Paul jokes that their mind meld first needed couples’ counseling.
Long at odds when it comes to foreign policy, the South Carolina and Kentucky Republicans have discovered rare common ground: Fury over the role of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and frustration with the
Trump administration’s support for the kingdom.
The White House allies represent the hawkish and non-interventionist poles of the Republican Party. Just this summer Paul said Graham was “a danger” for leaving the door open to potential use of military force against North Korea. Graham shot back, “There is no threat to America that Senator Paul will not retreat from.”
But as a Republican-led Senate generally reluctant to challenge President Donald Trump prepares for a spirited debate over the next few days over how to deal with Saudi Arabia, Graham and Paul vividly illustrate the chamber’s extraordinary discontent with Trump’s decision to side with the kingdom.
A Senate vote come come as soon as this week to condemn the Saudi government for a variety of alleged malfeasance, from its involvement in Yemen to its role in Khashoggi’s death.
“It’s a sign that this president’s foreign policy has gone badly askew when Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham are generally in agreement,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, Dconnecticut, who serves with Paul on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been meeting with Graham to discuss legislative strategies for punishing Saudi Arabia.
Paul and Graham’s partnership could help set the tone as the Senate looks to upbraid the administration. Lawmakers could vote on at least one of three proposals to register congressional displeasure with the Saudi government.
It’s expected that one proposal will be a Graham-sponsored nonbinding resolution expressing a sense of the Senate that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman helped orchestrate the journalist’s murder on Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Sen. Bob Corker, Rtennessee, the retiring Foreign Relations Committee chairman who said he believes a U.S. jury would render a guilty verdict on bin Salman “in 30 minutes,” said Graham’s resolution or a version of it is expected to pass overwhelmingly, regardless of whether Graham and Paul throw their weight behind it.
Trump has seemingly disregarded CIA reports of the strong probability that the crown prince was behind Khashoggi’s brutal dismemberment and has warned against disrupting a partnership that has resulted in American jobs from Saudi arm sales.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said in a statement regarding whether bin Salman bore responsibility.
It’s possible senators end up sending a measure to the president’s desk that would block U.S. arm sales to Saudi Arabia in retaliation against the kingdom’s actions. There could also be a vote on legislation to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, though that bill is unlikely to pass.
Paul pointed out that he and Graham also share a history of breaking from the president.