Hill Democrats move swiftly to end US arms to Saudis, in retaliation for OPEC cutting oil output

Saudi Arabia is the top crude oil producer among OPEC's 13 original members.
Oil refinery plant in Saudi Arabia

Congressional Democrats are moving fast and emphatically on efforts to try to block future U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia after its decision last week to cut oil production, amid a looming global energy crisis sparked by Russia's war on Ukraine.

The most recent to join the effort is New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who also is urging fellow party member President Biden to "immediately freeze all aspects" of U.S. cooperation with the kingdom, according to Politico

Saudi Arabia is one of the 13 original member countries of OPEC+, which last week announced the production cut and is the group's leading crude oil producer.

The group – formally titled the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – was expanded in 2016 to include other countries, including Russia.

"I will not green light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine," Menendez said Monday. "Enough is enough."

The U.S. and other allied governments see the cut in production, about 2 million barrels a day, as a gift to Russia President Vladimir Putin, who has already cut natural gas supplies to European nations that do not support his invasion, which has raised concerns about a shortage of heating fuel this winter.

Menendez has veto power over foreign arms sales, and Congress as a whole can vote to block some weapons sales, Politico also reports.

OPEC’s decision and the Democrats’ response come less than three months after Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia in which he asked the country’s leaders to increase oil production to lessen the impact of Putin’s war.

Menendez, in a statement, also wrote, "There simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict – either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping ... an entire country off of the map – or you support him."

Menendez is among at least seven congressional Democrats making such statements and vowing similar actions. 

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said last week that the Saudi kingdom "has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation."

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said several legislative responses are under consideration.

Congressional Democrats also say the idea of pulling U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia as punishment has failed because the U.S. would rather have its own troops there than Russia's or China's.