Senate poised to buck Trump on Saudi Arabia

The Senate is on the precipice of rebuking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE over the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who along with other journalists was honored Tuesday as Time’s “Person of the Year.”

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. If successful, it would represent a significant shift for the Senate, which in March pigeonholed the same measure.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I am optimistic that a bipartisan coalition of senators will vote to make clear that the United States will no longer support Saudi Arabia’s despotic regime in its incredibly destructive war,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' The generational divide of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party MORE (I-Vt.) said on Tuesday.

The resolution, spearheaded by Sanders and Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott Murphy It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (D-Conn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Utah), requires Trump to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

Because senators are bringing it up under the War Powers Act, they only need a simple majority to get it through the Senate. Supporters and opponents say they are confident it will have the votes to pass.

Aides say they expect the Senate to vote to begin debate on the measure on Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is then expected to try to force any amendments to the resolution to be on topic.

The war powers fight is uncharted waters for the Senate, which has increasingly ceded war authority to the White House in recent decades. How they handle the Yemen effort could have lasting ramifications for future battles.

Unless there is a deal to keep amendments on-topic, some senators worry a series of unrelated measures could be raised and set a damaging precedent for the use of war powers resolutions going forward.

“If we proceed to the bill [and] then it’s subject to a vote-a-rama … I think there’s a bipartisan interest in avoiding that,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Corker predicted that supporters of the Yemen resolution and “good governance” GOP senators would agree to limit amendments, preventing lawmakers from using the war fight to force votes on unrelated, and potentially controversial, pieces of legislation.

“There will be a whole lot of good government Republicans who don’t want to see the Senate turned into — on a War Powers Act — turned into a silly vote-a-thon,” he added.

Wednesday’s vote comes after 14 Republicans, including Corker, voted to kick the resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee late last month.

Several of those senators, however, said they were advancing the measure to send a message to Saudi Arabia, not because of the substance of the measure.

Murphy said he is confident that all 49 Democrats will support the Yemen resolution, meaning only two GOP votes would be needed for passage.

Republicans are still crafting a separate resolution that they are hoping to bring up this week that would name the Saudi crown prince “responsible” for Khashoggi’s death.

Corker, who has been negotiating with GOP leadership, said he wanted to try to “rule 14” the resolution, which would allow it to skip over the committee process and go straight to the Senate calendar, where it would be available for a vote.

He said passage of the measure would send a strong U.S. signal of outrage to Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed by the U.S. intelligence community to have been behind the killing of Khashoggi on Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

“A strong denouncing of a crown prince and holding them responsible for the murder of a journalist. It’s a pretty strong statement for the United States Senate to be making, assuming we can get a vote on it,” Corker told reporters this week.

Khashoggi and a number of other journalists, including two writers imprisoned in Myanmar and journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., where a gunman killed five people earlier this year, were honored as “Guardians” by Time.

Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote that they were given the award “for taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse” and “for speaking up and for speaking out.”

Corker’s resolution comes as Republican leaders have grappled with how to respond to Khashoggi’s killing.

Passing either, or both, of the resolutions would mark a significant break with the White House for Republicans, though House GOP leadership has been noncommittal about moving a bill by the end of the year.

The House is expected to be briefed Thursday on Khashoggi’s death. Corker is hoping that an overwhelming vote for his Khashoggi-focused resolution would put pressure on the House to pass it this month.

Meanwhile, the House is expected to be briefed Thursday on Khashoggi’s death. A Democratic aide said Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Congress must use upcoming defense bills to guard against a confrontation with Iran MORE (D-Calif.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieHouse conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes House conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes Trump signs long-awaited .1B disaster aid bill MORE (R-Ky.) “will be pushing for floor action by the end of the year” on a war powers resolution in the House.

Senators, as of Tuesday afternoon, were still scrambling over a potential agreement to let the Foreign Relations Committee mark up a broader bill from Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC MORE (R-Ind.) that 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. The amendment would also suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Corker said he has also requested that the bill be amended to include a one-year suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia instead of a two-year suspension.

The Tennessee Republican said he and Menendez are still negotiating, but he wasn’t optimistic about a deal.

“I had high hopes this morning,” he told The Hill. “Not so much now.”