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Senate edges closer to rebuking Trump on Saudi Arabia

Senators are closing in on a deal to defy President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE on Saudi Arabia, as support grows for tougher action over the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The emerging agreement would lead to a vote next week on a bipartisan resolution that would require Trump to withdraw troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days, unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

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Lawmakers involved in the negotiations say that because the Yemen resolution is being brought to the floor under the War Powers Act, with only a simple majority needed for passage, it’s all but guaranteed to be approved.

“I won’t support it, but it will pass,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.).

A legislative rebuke of that magnitude would mark a significant break with Trump, who is threatening to veto the measure and has said “we may never know all the facts” around the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote for The Washington Post. He died after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship is at a low point on Capitol Hill after a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel this week left senators convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the journalist’s slaying.

Senate leadership hasn’t announced when they plan to begin consideration of the resolution; the Senate voted 63-37 last week to advance the measure to floor debate.

Corker predicted that the next vote would take place on Wednesday.

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However, several issues remain unresolved that could complicate how quickly the Yemen resolution gets a final vote, namely whether negotiators and leadership can agree on the terms of debate to avoid a messy fight on the Senate floor.

“I don’t think either side wants to have a vote-a-rama, where there’s no germane-ness standard, and anything and everything that people want to have voted on they could offer as an amendment and we would have to vote on it,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees MORE of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber.

Without an agreement for floor debate, senators warn that they would have to go through a “vote-a-rama,” which could eat up precious floor time and force senators to take tough votes on any issue, including politically divisive ones. The unpredictable free-for-all is the type of scenario that GOP leadership tries to avoid by keeping a tight grip on the Senate floor proceedings.

Corker and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, are hopeful they will be able to avoid that by requiring all amendments to be “germane,” or related to Yemen. Senators are largely in unknown territory with the war powers fight, but they expect to be able to force a vote on the resolution and require that all amendments are on-topic.

“If there was a majority vote for that, which I believe there would be, then you would have a very limited number of amendments that can be offered,” Menendez said.

Corker predicted that enough “good governance guys” on the Republican side would vote with Democrats to limit what amendments could be offered, even if those GOP senators wouldn’t ultimately vote for the Yemen resolution.

But not all supporters are optimistic that they’ll be able to avoid a free-for-all, emphasizing that they want clearer signals from Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations panel, said he wouldn’t “presuppose” that supporters have the votes to limit amendments.

“I’m nervous to give you an opinion without leadership weighing in,” he said. “I’ve talked to lots of members about their desire to limit debate but I have not heard definitively from the majority leader or the minority leader.”

But he was confident about final passage. "We certainly have 51 votes for the final resolution," he said.

In addition to likely passing the Yemen resolution, sponsored by Murphy and Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill NFL's Justin Jackson praises Sanders for opposing Biden's USDA nominee MORE (I-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' MORE (R-Utah), senators are trying to figure out if they can pass two other proposals by the end of the year.

One, from Menendez and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Ind.), would require sanctions within 30 days on anyone involved in Khashoggi’s death, including “any official of the government of Saudi Arabia or member of the royal family” determined to be involved.

It also would require a report within 30 days on the kingdom’s human rights record. To help address the Yemen crisis, the measure would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit the U.S. military from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft.

The second proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPortman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.C.), is a non-binding resolution naming the crown prince “complicit” in Khashoggi’s death.

Corker said he is hoping to have a markup in the Foreign Relations Committee next week to consider the Menendez-Young measure.

The Tennessee Republican, who’s retiring next month, said he is in discussions with Menendez and Young about changes to their legislation, which he says keep the “substance” of the measure “intact.” If those two senators sign off on the revisions, Corker said he would support their bill.

Menendez and Young acknowledged they are considering Corker’s suggestions but were noncommittal about if they would incorporate them.

If Corker wants a committee markup early next week he would need Menendez to agree to hold one. The Democratic senator said he has not yet agreed to a markup.

A spokesman for Menendez declined to comment further, noting that Corker hasn’t formally requested a committee meeting.

But even if the panel advances the Menendez-Young measure, it’s uncertain whether it would be able to get approval on the Senate floor before the end of the year. Senators said they don’t think it could be attached to the Yemen resolution because it stretches beyond the war powers fight.

“So where does it go from there — is there a spending bill it can be attached to?” Corker asked. “Is there something else that you might attach it to to make it law?”

Menendez added that he was looking for a “vehicle” to get the bill considered this year.

Cornyn said senators should condemn Khashoggi’s killing without fracturing the U.S.-Saudi relationship, which could make Graham’s resolution the right path.

Corker added that Graham’s resolution was a good start but he is discussing a resolution on Khashoggi’s death that “adds a few words to it” and has the “right balance.” He added that if they could get it right, “it’s possible” McConnell brings it straight to the floor, where he believed it would get 90 votes.

“I think it’s important for us to pass something in the Senate that strongly condemns what this crown prince has done in killing this journalist,” Corker said. “Especially since he did it.”

--Rebecca Kheel contributed