Congress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle

The brewing fight between President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE and Congress over Saudi Arabia is poised to spill over into next year.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has emerged as a point of contention between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in the wake of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, with a growing number of senators convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the journalist’s death.

The Senate is prepared to defy Trump this week with a vote on a resolution aimed at ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, with both supporters and opponents predicting it has enough backing to pass.

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But with only days left before lawmakers wrap up their work for the year, some senators are already turning their attention to reviving the fight in the new year.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySanders: 'We must follow New Zealand's lead' and ban assault weapons The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change Dems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds MORE (D-Conn.) said that holding a vote this week is “a strong enough signal to the Saudis and a signal that we’re going to come back and finish it off next year.”

“The underlying resolution would still have privilege next year, and so if it passes this year it will likely pass again next year,” he added.

Murphy, along with Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release MORE (I-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Utah), is sponsoring the resolution, which would require Trump to withdraw troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda. Because the senators are bringing up the resolution under the War Powers Act, they need only a simple majority to pass it and would be able to quickly force it to the floor again next year.

In addition to the Yemen resolution, senators are expecting a wide-ranging bill from Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen GOP senators introduce bill to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Ind.) to spill over into 2019. That measure 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.

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

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.) is hoping to hold a markup on the Menendez-Young bill early this week, though it hasn’t been formally announced. The meeting would allow the committee — which has members spanning the foreign policy spectrum — to work through any amendments and get it prepped for an eventual vote on the Senate floor.

Corker said it was “possible,” but unlikely, that the Senate is able to tackle that broader bill this year.

“Honestly, knowing the way things work … the Menendez-Young effort is one that probably continues into next year, in all likelihood,” Corker, who is retiring in January, told reporters this past week.

He added that it would send “a really strong signal” to move all three measures, both at a committee level and on the floor, even if senators have to revive the bills when the next Congress starts in January.

“It’s not like it’s going away,” Corker said. “It’s going to be brought back up next year, and you know the House is going to bring it up.”

Because the Senate is expected to vote to limit amendments during on the Yemen resolution, the Menendez-Young bill, as well as a separate resolution condemning Khashoggi’s killing, are unlikely to be brought up as part of the floor debate.

But supporters of those two bills argue they could use the remaining weeks of the year to create a solid starting point for 2019.

“It can start this year, but if nothing else if we could just roll out a new product that gets 60 co-sponsors that would be a good place to start,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report Graham expects 'thorough' briefing on Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.), who is co-sponsoring the bill. “It’s a product that becomes your jumping-off point for next year.”

House Democrats, meanwhile, are planning to launch their own Saudi-crackdown efforts when they regain the majority in January, ensuring Trump’s foreign policy headaches continue into next year.

The House is expected to get briefed on Khashoggi and Yemen this week, which House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) said could help solidify a legislative path forward.

Pelosi, when asked what House Democrats would do, pointed to legislation to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a resolution, similar to the Senate measure, that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

“There are pieces of that that exist in different legislation,” she told reporters during a weekly press conference.

One potential stumbling block for challenging Trump on Saudi Arabia next year is Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump pick for Saudi ambassador defends US relationship with Riyadh Briefing calms senators' nerves after Trump-Kim summit Chris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Idaho), who is expected to succeed Corker as Foreign Relations Committee chairman. Risch, unlike Corker, is viewed as more of a Trump loyalist who would be unlikely to confront the president.

Supporters of Saudi-related legislation could try to leapfrog Risch by requesting their bill be put directly on the Senate calendar, which would allow leadership to bring it up for floor action. But for now they are navigating around questions about how they think Risch will handle the issue next year.

"I don't know. I'm not going to prejudge his priorities," Murphy said.