U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued pushing against Saudi Arabia this week, joining a key Republican senator in calling on a review of American relations with that nation.
On Wednesday, Rubio paired up with U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to bring out “the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act” (SADRA). The bill would have the executive branch examine the connections between the two nations.
“Although the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a history of shared strategic interests, the kingdom’s blatant disregard for human rights and international norms under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has strained the bilateral partnership and threatens to undermine long-term U.S. interests in the region,” Rubio’s office insisted on Wednesday.
In addition to launching a “comprehensive and strategic review of U.S.-Saudi relations.” the proposal also “implements a visa restriction in order to affect changes in conduct” including targeting members of the Saudi royal family.
The bill does have support from the other side of the aisle as U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, are backing it.
“It’s long overdue for the U.S. to conduct a thorough review of our relationship with Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” Rubio said. “From the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to the jailing and alleged torture of women’s rights activists and to other abuses domestically and abroad, the Saudi government’s human rights abuses and violations of international norms continue to raise alarms and run counter to America’s long-term interest for stability in the region. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to evaluate the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and hold those Saudi officials implicated in human rights abuses accountable.”
“All of us in Congress agree that we need to see a change in Saudi conduct going forward,” Risch said. “The kingdom’s concerning conduct is not new, and it reached a turning point in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, which was a horrendous act for which we all seek justice. This legislation is meant to address the tensions between our two nations, reevaluate our bilateral relationship, and change Saudi conduct moving forward. I am glad to have bipartisan support for this effort which would have a very real impact at a time when emotions continue to run high and there are many ideas, but few plans.”
“As concern grows over Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and alarming neglect of international norms, Congress must take additional steps to encourage the administration to reevaluate the relationship between our two nations,” Shaheen said. “The United States cannot ignore the Kingdom’s actions, and this bill sends a clear, bipartisan message to Saudi Arabia’s leadership. I appreciate the efforts of all my colleagues in the Senate who are working on various ways to address Saudi Arabia’s behavior. This bipartisan legislation is a means toward forcing accountability and I hope it will come before the Senate floor for consideration.”
“I am pleased to be a part of this bipartisan effort to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Coons said. “The United States and the Kingdom have worked together to advance our shared interests in the Middle East since the 1930s. But in light of recent challenges to the relationship and concerning Saudi actions, it is important that the Congress and the administration work together to reassess our partnership. I look forward to working on this legislation in the Foreign Relations Committee and advancing the bill to the Senate floor.”
The bill was sent to the Foreign Relations Committee, on which Rubio sits. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House.
Rubio has increasingly focused on Saudi Arabia in recent months. He is leading the charge on Capitol Hill to ensure Saudi Arabia does not obtain nuclear weapons. Back in December, Rubio paired up with fellow Foreign Relations Committee member U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to bring out the “No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act” and brought a similar proposal out in March with U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., on board. In February, Rubio pushed a bill to have the U.S. State Department examine Saudi education.
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