July 25, 2019 / 4:49 PM / 2 months ago

U.S. Senate panel backs Saudi sanctions measure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday backed legislation that would impose some sanctions on the Saudi royal family and block some weapons sales, pushing back against President Donald Trump’s close ties to the kingdom.

The vote was 13-9 for the legislation, as three Republicans joined committee Democrats in backing the measure despite expected opposition from Trump.

Many members of Congress have been agitating for months to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

To become law, the measure must still pass the Republican-majority Senate, as well as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and either be signed by the Republican president or garner the two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress to override a veto.

The committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Jim Risch, opposed the bill, whose co-sponsors included Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s top Democrat, as well as Republicans Lindsey Graham and Todd Young.

Risch said he wanted legislation to hold Riyadh accountable but argued that there was no point in passing a bill that Trump would veto.

Menendez argued that there was no point in advancing legislation that would die in the House.

Many members of Congress have been agitating for months to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Susan Thomas

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