It’s Official: 70 in U.S. Congress Urge President Barack Obama to Back Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

A large, bipartisan group of Members of Congress has sent a formal letter to President Obama calling on him to “publicly address Saudi Arabia’s serious human rights violations” when he visits the country this Friday.

Led by Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, and Jackie Speier, the letter is supported by a total of 70 elected U.S. Representatives.  The signers cover the full ideological spectrum in U.S. politics:  liberal Democrats, “Blue Dog” Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Tea Party-backed conservatives.

How did this happen?

Josh Rogin broke the news at The Daily Beast and offered context:

The letter was signed by a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and John Lewis (D-GA). NGOs on the letter included Amnesty International, International Christian Concern, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide – USA, and the National Organization for Women.

Julian Pecquet covered the story at Al-Monitor and shared my arguments for why:

The letter, which was first made public by Al-Monitor last week, has been endorsed by groups as varied as Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women and Voice of the Martyrs…

“This is the beginning of an expression of popular concern articulated through the US Congress about that relationship,” predicted Sunjeev Bery, the advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. “The Saudi Arabian government’s repression is so bad across so many fronts that it has created an environment in Washington, DC, where multiple groups representing multiple communities are all pushing Congress at the same time.”

For too long, the U.S. government has prioritized geopolitics and oil instead of basic freedoms in its relationship with this highly repressive ally.  Large cracks of congressional dissent are starting to emerge into the light.

Read the full letter from Congress here (PDF).

The Numbers Keep Rising: 60 Members of Congress Now Urging President Obama to Support Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

What was 50 has now become 60: The number of Members of Congress signing the letter to President Obama continues to grow.

Who is on the list?

Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, Jackie Speier, John Lewis, Rush Holt, Robert Aderholt, Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan, Peter Roskam, Barbara Lee, Ted Poe, Kerry Bentivolio, James Sensenbrenner, Earl Blumenauer, Gus Bilirakis, Raúl M. Grijalva, Vance McAllister, Tim Huelskamp, Bill Johnson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Steve Chabot, Vicky Hartzler, Sheila Jackson Lee, Charles B. Rangel, Scott Rigell, Randy Weber, Joe Pitts, Robert Pittenger, Mark Meadows, Lloyd Doggett, Jan Schakowsky, Eleanor Holmes Norton, William Keating, Blake Farenthold, Reid Ribble, Chris Smith, Mike McIntyre, Donna F. Edwards, Maxine Waters, Mike Honda, Louie Gohmert, Jim Moran, Carol Shea-Porter, Steve Stivers, Bobby Rush, Albio Sires, Hank Johnson, Doug Collins, Chellie Pingree, Mike Doyle, Alan Lowenthal, Niki Tsongas, Peter DeFazio, John F. Tierney, Rodney Davis, Emanuel Cleaver, Dan Lipinski, Ann Wagner, Chris Van Hollen, Gary C. Peters.