Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump

The Senate approved a resolution Thursday to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, dealing a significant blow to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE amid heightened tensions over the death of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
 
Senators voted 56-41 on the resolution, which would require the president to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The resolution would still need to be passed by the House before it could be sent to Trump, who has threatened to veto it. The House on Wednesday narrowly approved a rule governing debate on the farm bill that included a provision that would prevent lawmakers from forcing a war powers vote this year.
 
Still, the Senate vote Thursday underscores the depth of frustration with Saudi Arabia on Capitol Hill, as well as the escalating gap between the White House and Congress on the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom.
 
“I hope … we send a loud and powerful message by passing this resolution. That we’re going to bring peace to that country and that the United States Congress is going to reassert its constitutional authority to be the body that makes war not the president,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.), one of the sponsors of the resolution, told reporters.
 
It’s a dramatic U-turn from less than nine months ago when the chamber pigeonholed the same resolution, refusing to vote it out of committee and on to full Senate. At the time, 10 Democrats joined 45 Republicans in opposing it.
 
The resolution's passage comes two days after Trump maintained that he would stand by the Saudi government and specifically Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom U.S. intelligence officials reportedly believe ordered Khashoggi's killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October.
 
A growing number of senators also believe the crown prince is responsible for the death of Khashoggi, who was a vocal critic of Saudi leadership and lived in Virginia while serving as a columnist for The Washington Post. The Senate passed a separate resolution Thursday afternoon specifically naming the crown prince as responsible for Khashoggi's death.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Trump told Reuters on Tuesday that Riyadh has been “a very good ally” and “at this moment” sticking with Saudi Arabia means standing by the crown prince.
 
The Trump administration had led a lobbying effort to try to quash the Senate resolution withdrawing U.S. support for the military campaign in Yemen.
 
 
And CIA Director Gina Haspel has met with a group of Senate and House lawmakers earlier this month, but she only appeared to solidify the belief among senators that the crown prince is responsible.
 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump reviews Pelosi on morning TV: 'She wasn't bad' Encryption helps America work safely – and that goes for Congress, too Graham: Pelosi comment on Trump is 'most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history' MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters after the briefing that “there's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw” tying the crown prince to the death — a direct rebuke to Mattis’s claim that there isn’t a “smoking gun” linking the crown prince.
 
Backers of the Yemen resolution did lose some GOP support since the initial procedural vote late last month. Some Republicans, including Graham, say they voted initially to advance the resolution because of the message it sent to Saudi Arabia and not because of the substance of the resolution.
 
Outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday that he couldn’t support the Yemen resolution but “I know that Lee-Sanders has the votes.”
 
 
"[But] we also want to preserve the 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia and we want to ensure it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region," McConnell said.
 
He added that the dynamic presents "challenging circumstances" but "the Sanders-Lee resolution is neither precise enough or prudent enough.”
 
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPompeo: Countries must 'step up,' provide 'transparent' coronavirus information to save lives China did not count coronavirus positives if patient had no symptoms: report Trump seeks to sell public on his coronavirus response MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who also opposes the resolution, wrote in a Fox News op-ed Wednesday that while “the Saudis must answer for Khashoggi’s murder” the Sanders-Lee resolution “risks emboldening Iran and increasing the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
 
Corker, who spearheaded the resolution finding the crown prince responsible for Khashoggi's death, had negotiated for days with Senate leadership on that resolution.
 
"Unanimously the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear. ... I'm glad the Senate is speaking with once voice unanimously toward this end," Corker said shortly after the vote Thursday.

Updated at 4:30 p.m.