Democratic duo proposes banning arms to Saudi Arabia over OPEC cuts

A pair of Democratic lawmakers are proposing that the United States halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to cuts in oil production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote an op-ed in Politico on Sunday urging Congress to freeze arms sales to the leading OPEC country until it reverses its “embrace” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Members of Congress are already talking about how best to respond. Some are proposing to extend domestic antitrust laws to international trade. Others are proposing to revive a GOP initiative to withdraw U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia. But that idea has failed in the past, as the United States would rather have its own troops there than Russian or Chinese troops,” the lawmakers wrote.

“A simpler, far more urgent step to strengthen US national security would be to halt all US military supplies, sales and other arms assistance to Saudi Arabia.”

Democrats blasted Saudi Arabia over the OPEC decision, which came less than three months after President Biden visited Saudi Arabia, where he asked the country’s leaders to increase oil production to help counter the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We are giving Saudi Arabia 70% of their weapons,” Khanna said Twitter Friday. “For them to drive up energy prices for the American people is outrageous. It’s simple. If the Saudi-led OPEC+ doesn’t reverse their decision, the US should stop sending them weapons.”

The OPEC+ coalition of 13 member nations and 11 non-members, including Russia, announced last week that it would cut production by 2 million barrels, raising concerns that the move is pushing up prices at the pump in the United States.

Blumenthal told Politico earlier this week that there is still “an opportunity to convince the Saudis that you’re making a gigantic mistake here,” adding that he hopes the Biden administration will “be aggressive” in using American leverage .

President Biden said Wednesday he was “disappointed” by the OPEC+ move, while the White House accused Riyadh of “aligning Russia” with the move.

The Biden administration has said it is reviewing its options to respond as it renews calls for oil companies to cut prices.

Khanna and Blumenthal argued that Saudi Arabia could not easily find new arms suppliers, giving the United States significant leverage.

“Perhaps it’s worth considering some old Russian wisdom for yourself. Over a century ago, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov warned: ‘Knowledge is worthless unless you put it into practice.’ “Perhaps the same is true of leverage. It is without value unless it is used,” they wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the White House and the offices of Khanna and Blumenthal for comment.

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