Sen. Cruz to State Department: Follow the Law and Respect It

Highlights threat of Iran, questions State Department’s decision to circumvent Congress in arms sales

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today participated in a hearing titled ‘Defense Cooperation: Use of Emergency Authorities Under the Arms Export Control Act,’ with testimony from R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

During his line of questioning, Sen. Cruz indicated his support for the administration’s arms sales given the threat of Iran, but expressed concern by the State Department’s decision to circumvent Congress.

“As I said, I agree with the substance but shifting to the process, I have to say I agree with the concerns that have been expressed in this hearing on both sides of the aisle,” Sen. Cruz said. “The process that the State Department followed for these weapons sales, not to put too fine a point on it, was crap. Under the law, under the Arms Export Control Act, the administration needs congressional approval and has a 30-day notification period. And for whatever reason, the administration, in what seems to me a not fully baked decision-making process, decided to circumvent the law, decided to circumvent the constitutional responsibility of Congress and act unilaterally.”

Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning may be viewed here. A transcript of his questions is below.

Sen. Cruz: “Mr. Cooper, thank you for your testimony. I want to break this issue down into two parts: substance and process. On the substance, I agree with the administration that these arms sales were appropriate, not because the Saudis are steady and reliable allies. The Saudis are deeply problematic allies whose conduct often is lacking, and they have historically shown far too much of a willingness to get in bed with enemies of America. Even though they are a problematic ally, the Saudis are also, I believe, a critical counterweight to Iran, and on any rational and reasonable comparison measuring the threat to the United States of America between the Saudis and Iran, it is not remotely close. Iran is led by theocratic mullahs and an Ayatollah who chants ‘Death to America’ and is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. That is the reason that I ultimately voted with the administration in support of these arms sales, is because helping the Saudis defend themselves against Iran is in the United States’ national security interest. Can you articulate to this committee the threat that Iran poses, both to the Saudis, but more fundamentally to the United States?”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “Thank you, Senator. In an open fora it’s been referenced that the persistent threat has not gone away, that’s fair. What has changed has been recent upticks in direct threats to U.S. persons and U.S. interests in the Gulf region. That is what’s different. To our partners, there are direct threats not only by Tehran but emanating through proxies from Tehran. We discussed a little bit of what’s been an open source, an open for a, about attacks that have been incurred upon our Saudi partners, our Emirati partners, on their civilian populace and on their infrastructure. We have talked about the Houthis and what they’re doing to exacerbate and expand the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as well as being supported by Tehran. So the threat isn’t going to go away but deterrence through these sales, deterrence through sanctions, deterrence through presence and posture is a way to address it, and I would say in a closed fora we can talk articulately about specificity of timing, very specific threats, specificity-”

Sen. Cruz: “How advanced is Iran’s ballistic missile capability?”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “In an open fora, Iran has capabilities that go beyond their localized scope and are a threat to neighbors and are a direct threat to partners other than the ones we are talking about here today. They have capabilities that emanate beyond Tehran to a broader region.”

Sen. Cruz: “Well that’s quite a bit of understatement given that they’re the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world and they’re directly responsible for the murders of over 600 U.S. servicemen and women.”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “And they also are facilitator of other forms of terrorism beyond direct reports of what would be called command and control of Tehran government. There are elements that are not under direct C2, or direct command and control, from the Quds Force as you referenced. But again, we’re in an open fora at this time.”

Sen. Cruz: “As I said, I agree with the substance but shifting to the process, I have to say I agree with the concerns that have been expressed in this hearing on both sides of the aisle. The process that the State Department followed for these weapons sales, not to put too fine a point on it, was crap. Under the law, under the Arms Export Control Act, the administration needs congressional approval and has a 30-day notification period. And for whatever reason, the administration, in what seems to me a not fully baked decision-making process, decided to circumvent the law, decided to circumvent the constitutional responsibility of Congress and act unilaterally.

“Now, if you have an army surging on the border and an imminent emergency, that’s one thing. There is in fact an exception for that. It’s now been 47 days since you declared an emergency. Did I hear you right in your answer to questions earlier that you can’t point to a single one of these 22 sales that have actually been delivered?”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “Licenses have been completed on the DCS side for delivery.”

Sen. Cruz: “It’s a simple question: have they been delivered?”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “On the servicing and training components, yes. But if we’re talking hardware, they’re ready for delivery.”

Sen. Cruz: “So that was 47 days ago the emergency occurred. Did I also hear you right where you said the review process on this was close to a year?”

Hon. R. Clarke Cooper: “This goes back to the cases you were referencing the process here. There are cases that have been before Congress in the tiered review process for close to a year.”

Sen. Cruz: “Well, if the department had a year to gaze at its naval and consider this, the department had 30 days to take it to Congress and follow the law and it was foolishness not to. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is simply Democrats who are concerned about this. I voted with the administration on the substance because of the threat of Iran, but I’ll tell you from my end, if the administration does it again and there is not a live and exigent emergency, you will not have my vote and I predict you will not have the vote of a number of other Republicans as well. The simpler process is follow the damn law and respect it.”