The U.S. Senate will vote on June 20 on legislation seeking to block $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, as lawmakers' anger with Riyadh increases.

The administration of President Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sale of aircraft support maintenance, munitions, and other weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by the threats posed by Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia's historical rival, Shi'ite-led Iran, which backs Huthi rebels in Yemen in what experts have called a "proxy war" between Riyadh and Tehran.

Many senators, including some Republicans, opposed Trump's decision to declare an emergency to allow the arms sales over congressional objections.

Critics say the weapons will help Saudi Arabia mount its offensive in Yemen and contribute to the misery there. Millions in the country are on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Many lawmakers were also angered by the killing of U.S.-based Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the country's consulate in Istanbul last year.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on June 19 that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had agreed to allow votes on the 22 arms sales.

The fate of such a move by Congress is uncertain. Lawmakers in both Houses must come up with a two-thirds vote to overcome a potential Trump veto.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of RadioFree Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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