Senate advances Yemen resolution in rebuke to Trump

The Senate issued a sharp rebuke Wednesday to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE, easily advancing a resolution that would end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s civil war despite a White House effort to quash the bill.

The administration launched an eleventh-hour lobbying frenzy to try to head off momentum for the resolution, dispatching Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House does damage control after Mulvaney remarks Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoEx-Watergate prosecutor says evidence in impeachment inquiry 'clearly' points to Trump Pompeo rejects idea that the United States abandoned Kurds Mike Pompeo's Faustian bargain MORE to Capitol Hill in the morning and issuing a veto threat less than an hour before the vote started.

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But lawmakers advanced the resolution, 63-37, even as the administration vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia following the outcry over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“There’s been a lot of rhetoric that’s come from the White House and from the State Department on this issue,” said Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “The rhetoric that I’ve heard and the broadcasts that we’ve made around the world as to who we are have been way out of balance as it relates to American interests and American values.”

The vote advances the resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee, making it available for action before the full Senate.

The small step is a significant victory for supporters of the resolution, which fell six votes short of passage in March. The resolution, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally On The Money: Supreme Court takes up challenge to CFPB | Warren's surge brings scrutiny to wealth tax | Senators eye curbs on Trump emergency powers Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyPelosi, Schumer hit 'flailing' Trump over 'sham ceasefire' deal Romney slams ceasefire deal, calls Trump's Syria move 'a bloodstain' in US history Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics MORE (D-Conn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration MORE (R-Utah), would require Trump to remove troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days.

Senators are increasingly frustrated with Saudi Arabia amid growing questions about Khashoggi’s death and whether Riyadh is actively trying to limit civilian deaths in Yemen.

“In my mind it is imperative today that the United States Senate tell Saudi Arabia and tell the world that we are not going to be continuing to be part of that humanitarian disaster,” Sanders said. “We have to make the decision as to what happens in the war in Yemen and our role in that, and that’s what the vote today is about.”

Lee, who noted he and Sanders agree on very little, added that the vote was a matter of senators exercising their constitutional authorities on war.

“With regard to Mr. Khashoggi, this is an instance in which one man has died compared to many, many, many more who have died in connection with this war. It’s brought the eyes of the American people and turned them toward us and turned them also toward Saudi Arabia,” said Lee, who rarely speaks with reporters in the hallway. “In any event, regardless of what may have happened with Mr. Khashoggi, we are fighting a war in Yemen that we haven’t declared, that has never been declared or authorized by Congress. That’s not constitutional.”

The next Senate vote on the measure is uncertain. The Senate is expected to delay any additional votes related to the resolution until next week as the chamber works through a slate of previously scheduled nomination votes. And senators are privately discussing amending the resolution on the Senate floor, which would set up the sort of unpredictable outcome GOP leadership likes to avoid.

But that did little to stop momentum for the resolution, with supporters flipping 19 votes from March despite an all-out offensive from the White House.

In addition to briefing senators, the Pentagon and State Department took the rare step of publicly releasing Mattis and Pompeo’s closed-door opening statements ahead of the briefing, and Pompeo spoke to reporters in the Senate basement afterward.

In the briefing, Mattis and Pompeo argued that withdrawing U.S. support from the war would undermine efforts to improve Saudi targeting and broker peace at a time when those talks appear on the precipice of starting, according to their prepared remarks. The U.N. special envoy for Yemen has said he hopes to convene talks in December after receiving commitments from the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels it’s fighting.

“We made clear that they’re considering debating a resolution on the Senate floor which we think is just poorly timed,” Pompeo added in his comments to the press. “It would encourage the Houthis. It would encourage the Iranians. It would undermine the fragile agreement for everyone to go to Sweden and have this discussion.”

And the White House warned that it “strongly opposes” passage of the resolution and that advisers would recommend Trump veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

“The continued cooperation of the United States allows the administration to support the diplomatic negotiations to end the war, ensure humanitarian access, enhance efforts to recover United States hostages in Yemen and defeat terrorists that seek to harm the United States,” the White House said in a statement.

But the Trump administration’s tactic appeared to backfire, with several senators coming out in support of taking up the resolution after the briefing, saying the administration’s argument was unconvincing and that the White House made a fatal miscalculation by not sending CIA Director Gina Haspel to speak with senators.

“I don’t think the administration won over any troubled Republicans in that briefing,” Murphy told reporters. “It’s simply not persuasive that a vote to survive a tabling ... will have any effect on negotiations taking place in two weeks.”

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-N.J.), speaking to reporters after the briefing, called Haspel’s absence from the meeting a “cover-up,” while Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMeet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria 2020 Democrats push for gun control action at forum MORE (D-Del.) added that it was a “serious mistake.”

The CIA denied that the White House made the decision not to send Haspel. But even senators who did not support the resolution nonetheless said the briefing was inadequate without her.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he shares Kurdish 'concerns' over cease-fire Majority of Americans believe Trump's Syria move has damaged US reputation: poll Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, threatened to gum up the works of the Senate by withholding his vote on key items until the CIA briefs the full chamber.

Graham has not supported the underlying resolution, but said he voted to get it out of the committee because “this whole process is BS” without a CIA briefing.