Two Florida Republicans are leading the charge on Capitol Hill to ensure Congress plays a role if the Trump administration decides to help Saudi Arabia with its efforts to achieve nuclear weapons.
In the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to bring out the “Saudi Nuclear Nonproliferation Act.” Over in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., is pairing up with U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., to champion to the proposal which “increases congressional oversight over any civil nuclear cooperation agreement – or 123 agreement – between the United States and Saudi Arabia.” There have been several reports of the Trump White House working with Saudi Arabia on the matter.
“The Saudi Nuclear Nonproliferation Act would require Congress to affirmatively approve any 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. Typically, 123 agreements—which authorize U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology abroad—go into effect unless veto-proof majorities of Congress pass joint resolutions of disapproval. The legislation also makes clear that Congress believes that no 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia should be approved unless and until the Kingdom is truthful and transparent about the death of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi, until it commits to forego any uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing activities – the so-called ‘Gold Standard’ – within its territory, and until it agrees to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol. The legislation also urges Saudi Arabia to make substantial progress on protecting human rights, including through the release of political prisoners,” Rubio’s office noted.
“Until the Saudi government agrees to adhere to the ‘Gold Standard’ for responsible nuclear behavior, allows the IAEA’s Additional Protocol nuclear inspections, and also proves they are willing to be a responsible partner that respects the basic human rights of their citizens, the United States should suspend all talks related to a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Rubio said last week. “This important bill will ensure Congress has oversight over and the right to affirmatively approve any civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, and also continues to press the Saudis for full accountability in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
“Saudi Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman is more focused on nuclear energy in the Kingdom for geopolitical power than for electrical power,” said Markey who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Rubio. “Saudi Arabia’s turn towards brutal authoritarianism, along with its stated desire to pursue nuclear weapons, makes it critical for the United States to demand the highest nonproliferation standards in any 123 agreement it negotiates with the country, and for Congress to have final say before approval. I thank Senator Rubio, and Reps. Sherman and Yoho for their leadership on this important legislation that will help thwart a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
“As I’ve said before, a government that cannot be trusted with a bone saw, should not be trusted with a nuclear weapon,” said Sherman, the chairman of the U.S. House Asia and Pacific Subcommittee. “This bill empowers Congress to block any nuclear cooperation agreement that allows Saudi Arabia to acquire the technologies necessary to build a nuclear bomb.”
“Saudi Arabia’s expressed interest in entering into a 123 Agreement with the United States will be held to the same stringent criteria as previous agreements,” said Yoho who leads Republicans on the Asia and Pacific Subcomittee. “Any accord with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia needs to be approved by Congress. Proper oversight is key to making sure all enumerated criteria – laid out in this bill – are met before any 123 agreement can be reached.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com