FILE - In this May 20, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in...
Evan Vucci

Why we’ve seen three presidential vetoes in four months

Updated

With his party firmly in control for the first two years of his presidency, Donald Trump’s veto pen gathered dust. That’s no longer the case.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from bypassing Congress and selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1 billion arms sale to the two U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf, which are enemies of Tehran.

But Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way intended to bypass congressional review infuriated lawmakers. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate banded together to introduce resolutions to block the weapons sale in what was viewed as a bipartisan pushback to Trump’s foreign policy.

Trump’s first-ever veto came in mid-March, after Congress balked at the White House’s emergency declaration on border-barrier construction. A month later, Congress also voted to end U.S. involvement in Yemen’s civil war, pushing back against the administration’s support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign.

And then earlier this month, Congress approved – with bipartisan majorities – a measure to block an arms deal that would benefit Saudi Arabia. Trump approved the deal without lawmakers’ approval in May, citing “emergency” circumstances that were more than a little dubious.

Predictably, Congress failed to override Trump’s first two vetoes, and we’re likely to see the same thing happen again following yesterday’s developments. But that doesn’t mean the vetoes are unimportant.

Indeed, it’s no small thing that Trump has only used his veto pen three times since taking office, and in two of the three instances, he was rejecting lawmakers’ opposition to his policy toward Saudi Arabia.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, Yemen’s brutal civil war has caused a staggering humanitarian catastrophe, and while the crisis is complex, it’s clear that Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the conflict has exacerbated the nightmarish conditions.

The United States is not a detached observer. We have, after all, extended considerable military support to our partners in Riyadh, which in turn has helped fuel the Saudis’ campaign in Yemen.

In recent months, the U.S. Congress has effectively said, “Enough,” even making historic use of the War Powers Resolution. The president and his team don’t appear to care.