The Trump administration is considering an emergency declaration that would allow the US to make an arms shipment to Saudi Arabia without Congress approval, officials and lawmakers opposed to the move have revealed.
The officials said a decision on invoking a national security waiver in the Arms Export Control Act to bypass congressional review of proposed sales to the Saudis could be made as early as Friday.
It was not immediately clear what sales would be covered by the possible waiver, which could allow previously blocked weapons transfers to move forward or be applied to new ones. A sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia has been on hold for more than a year.
Congressional opposition to US military support for Saudi Arabia has been growing and lawmakers have blocked about $US2 billion in arms sales to the kingdom due to concerns over civilian casualties in the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
President Donald Trump last month vetoed legislation that would have ended US military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who would authorise the waiver, has been considering the step for months, according to the officials.
But the matter has become more pressing in recent weeks due to what the administration said were heightened threats from Iran and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
There is precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.
Australian Associated Press