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Rand Paul’s office moves to stop $23B sale of F-16s to Turkey

Rand Paul’s office moves to stop $23B sale of F-16s to Turkey

The administration approved the package after Ankara released its hold on Sweden NATO membership

Reporting | QiOSK

UPDATE 3/1: The motion to discharge Paul's resolution failed in the Senate last night by a vote of 13-79. Nine Democrats and four Republicans supported the measure.

"Unfortunately, history prepared us for Senator Paul’s joint resolution of disapproval to fail. Congress has never passed a joint resolution of disapproval to stop an arms sale in part because they would need a veto-proof majority in both chambers in order to override a presidential veto," Jonathan Ellis Allen, a research associate at the Cato Institute, told RS after the vote. "Absent a major change in arms sale policy that requires Congress to vote to approve – rather than disapprove – each sale, the president will continue to have the power to use weapons transfers as a tool of foreign policy with little oversight from Congress."



Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) plans to force a vote as early as today on a resolution that would prohibit the sale of F-16 fighter jets and other military supplies to Turkey — a $23 billion package that the Biden administration approved last month.

Paul’s opposition to the sale is a result of concerns over Ankara’s record of alleged human rights abuses domestically, and what Paul says is destabilizing and dangerous behavior in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, as well as a pattern of acting against the rule of law and U.S. interests. The senator first introduced the resolution on February 7.

“Turkey’s President praised Hamas as a ‘liberation group,’ Turkey’s military fired at our troops in Syria, and Turkey’s police imprison those who dare to criticize the leader. That doesn’t sound like the actions of an ‘ally’ deserving of $23 billion worth of American firepower,” Paul said in a statement provided to RS.

As three scholars from the Cato Institute explained in an op-ed late last year, Washington has continued to send valuable aid to Turkey while simultaneously squandering any leverage it has in the relationship.

“The U.S. will continue to send weapons and security assistance to its NATO ally, in part with the hope that such reassurances and arms sales will provide the U.S. with leverage over Turkey,” wrote Jordan Cohen, Jonathan Ellis Allen, and Nardine Mosaad. “ Unfortunately, U.S. support for Turkey does the opposite of providing leverage and simultaneously hurts American security while destabilizing a region that Washington seems unable to ignore.”

The State Department announced the sale of $23 billion of 40 F-16s, along with the necessary tools to modernize its 79 fighter jets from its current fleet after 20 months of negotiations that centered around welcoming Sweden into NATO. While the Biden administration said in July 2023 that it would move forward with the sale following signals from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would approve Sweden’s membership, Congress demanded more concrete steps before they green-lighted the sale.

In January, Erdogan signed the documents that officially ratified Sweden’s NATO ascension — later that day, the State Department notified Congress that it had approved the sale.

The parliament in Hungary, the final holdout on Stockholm’s looming admittance to NATO, voted to approve their membership on Monday.

In the past, other senators have expressed concern over Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and Turkey’s foreign policy. “My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircraft has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. But make no mistake: This was not a decision I came to lightly,” Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in January.

“While Turkey plays a critical role in the region as a NATO ally, there is an urgent need for improvement on its human rights record, including the unjust imprisonment of journalists and civil society leaders, better cooperation on holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine, and on lowering the temperature in its rhetoric about the Middle East,” Cardin added.

Congress has never successfully used a joint resolution of disapproval to block a proposed arms sale. Passing such a measure would require getting through both chambers of Congress and securing a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Reporting from when the State Department announced the deal in January indicated that there was not sufficient support in Congress to block the deal.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) looks on during a U.S. Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing, September 23, 2020. Alex Edelman/Pool via REUTERS
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