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Bush Expected To Notify Congress, Saudi Arabia of JDAM Sale

By | January 14, 2008

      By Jen DiMascio

      President Bush is expected to notify Congress today about selling the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to Saudi Arabia, one day before the new session of Congress formally opens and the same day he is scheduled to visit the Middle Eastern country.

      The deal could face two separate resolutions of disapproval in the House, where 253 lawmakers already have signed on to letters opposing the deal. Saudi Arabia formally is in a state of war with Israel, a staunch U.S. ally in the region.

      Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) co-authored the more moderate of two letters to Bush that urged him to assure Congress that JDAMs sold to Saudi Arabia could not be used against U.S. military personnel or its allies — namely Israel.

      The Boeing Co. [BA] is the prime contractor for JDAM.

      Kirk said that he and other lawmakers have had discussions with the Department of Defense and the Department of State most recently just before the holidays, during which they laid out their concerns along with an extensive list of changes they wanted to see.

      As of Friday afternoon, Kirk said he had not received a response from the administration. If that is still the case when Congress returns to session, lawmakers may move to block the sale with a resolution of disapproval.

      "If they want to prevent a resolution on Tuesday, they need to come up and brief us right away," Kirk told Defense Daily, sister publication of Space & Missile Defense Report.

      Once the president notifies Congress, lawmakers have 30 days to kill the sale with a resolution that must pass in the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority, Kirk said.

      "Even if you fall below the two-thirds margin, it represents the lack of long-term sustainable political support for what’s being proposed," he said.

      In a letter to the president last fall, Kirk and Carney noted that Saudi Arabia is in a formal state of war with Israel.

      "Any sale of JDAM technology to Saudi Arabia must come with guarantees backed by strict conditions notified to Congress followed by regular reporting, tight congressional oversight and intense consultations with our ally Israel," the letter said.

      The Bush administration last month postponed notification of the sale until after the first of the year.

      Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who wrote a separate letter to Bush opposing the sale, may attempt to formally block the sale.

      But the House Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over arms sales, will not refer the resolutions from the committee to the full House for its consideration, Lynne Weil, communications director for the committee, said.

      Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) initially objected to the administration’s approach to the sale, but now feels that a resolution of disapproval would not be helpful, Weil said.

      Despite the committee’s position, the resolutions could still come to the full house for a vote, she said.

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