Senate Democrats wrote a letter to President George Bush that reported a
two million barrel per day reduction in Saudi oil output since 2005. The
senators reported current Saudi production at 8.5 million barrels a day,
well below the kingdom's capacity of 11 million barrels a day.
"At a time when high energy prices are causing widespread anxiety among
American households, we question the merit of rewarding members of OPEC with
lucrative arms sales," the senators wrote.
The initiative, organized by Democrats, could threaten plans by the Bush
administration to sell $20 billion worth of defense systems and weapons to
Saudi Arabia. This would include the Joint Direct Attack Munition, which
Congress tacitly approved in January 2008.
On Thursday, Schumer joined several Democrats that demanded that
President George Bush pressure Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other members of
OPEC to increase oil output or face a U.S. weapons embargo. Kuwait, another
leading U.S. arms client, is also a member of OPEC.
The senators -- including Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat;
Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana; Sen. Bob Casey a Democrat
from Pennsylvania, and Sen. Bernie Sanders and independent of Vermont --
appeared most dismayed over Bush's policy toward Riyad. For his part,
Schumer said he and his colleagues would press for a resolution to block
current weapons projects to GCC states.
The White House quickly rejected the demand by the Senate Democrats.
Officials said President George Bush and his aides have assessed that any
linkage between U.S. arms sales and Arab oil production would result in a
"Arms sales to our allies are made because they are in the national
security interests of our country, not because they are a bargaining chit,"
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Over the last six months, Congress has approved nearly $14 billion worth
of weapons sales to OPEC members. The largest deals were that of the PAC-3
missile defense system to the UAE, valued at $9 billion.