Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen

Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen

The Senate broke with President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew York Gov. Cuomo calls for FAA to ground Boeing 737 Max Pentagon signs directive to implement transgender military ban DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally-funded services to private schools MORE on Wednesday over the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, paving the way for a veto showdown with the White House.

Senators voted 54-46 to pass a resolution requiring the president to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution GOP, White House seek to avoid showdown on emergency declaration Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight MORE (Maine), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill for ‘internet of things’ security standards White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration Land conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes MORE (Mont.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators introduce bill to rein in president’s emergency powers McConnell opens door to changing president’s emergency powers On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees ’50-50′ chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution If Democrats are serious about voting rights, they can’t ignore Puerto Rico Murkowski, Manchin call for ‘responsible solutions’ to climate change MORE (Alaska), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGOP senators introduce bill to rein in president’s emergency powers Pence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution White House pressures Senate GOP to back Trump’s emergency declaration MORE (Kansas), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell opens door to changing president’s emergency powers Pence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution GOP, White House seek to avoid showdown on emergency declaration MORE (Ky.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators introduce bill to rein in president’s emergency powers Pence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight MORE (Ind.) voted with Democrats on the resolution. 

The chamber first passed the resolution in December, but it did not pass the GOP-controlled House before the end of the 115th Congress and was reintroduced this year.

The Senate vote, which is still open, comes hours after the White House formally threatened to veto the resolution, arguing it was “flawed” and has an “erroneous premise.”

“The joint resolution would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent that it seeks to override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief,” the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said.

The resolution still needs to pass the House before it heads to Trump’s desk. Senate supporters believe it could get a vote in the lower chamber as soon as Thursday, paving the way for potentially the first veto of Trump’s presidency.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media Jimmy Carter offers to visit North Korea for denuclearization talks Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez back ‘end the forever war’ pledge MORE (D-Calif.) said he expected the House would take up the legislation in the next couple of weeks.

“Our office is working with leadership and the [Congressional Progressive Caucus] to finalize a date of when we will pass the Senate [War Powers Resolution] and send it to the president’s desk,” his office added. 

Wednesday’s vote comes a day before the Senate is likely to also pass a resolution of disapproval blocking Trump’s emergency declaration—setting up a one-two punch that will force the president to reject back-to-back legislation from Capitol Hill.

“I’m sure Republicans want to … peel two band aids off at once it hurts less,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Senate set to rebuke Trump on support for Saudi Arabia Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council MORE (D-Conn.), a cosponsor of the Yemen legislation. “This will be the first two vetoes coming in rapid succession. Maybe Republicans did notice the 2018 election.”

Saudi Arabia has emerged as a growing split between Trump and Congress in the wake of the slaying last fall of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Saudi government.

Trump has refused to pin the blame of Khashoggi’s death on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, saying in a widely panned statement late last year that “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.” Trump added that the U.S. “may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder” of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Saudi government maintained that the killing was carried out by rogue agents as part of an interrogation that went off track — an explanation that has been met with heavy skepticism by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Trump’s stance has put him at odds with Republicans in Congress as well as his own intelligence community, which has reportedly determined that the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

The Trump administration also dispatched officials to Capitol Hill to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about its investigation, ordered by members of the panel last year, into Khashoggi’s death. But the closed-door briefing only infuriated Republicans, who characterized the meeting as a “waste of time” where they “learned very little.”

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council It’s time for Trump to walk the walk on workforce training MORE (D-Va.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said if the administration wanted to try to squash the Yemen resolution they should have made more progress on the Khashoggi resolution.

“We need to take this step to show while they don’t care about it we do. …If they had taken some meaningful step in the Khashoggi situation they might have increased the odds that some of us wouldn’t vote to refudiate their efforts in Yemen, but they’ve done nothing,” said Kaine. “So that means you’re going to get a lot of votes for a the Yemen resolution.”

But frustrations on Capitol Hill with the U.S.-Saudi relationship run deeper than just Khashoggi’s death.

The only veto override of former President Obama was when Congress shot down his attempt to block legislation allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts. The veto override passed the Senate 97-1.

And senators have tried to pass the Yemen resolution for years over concerns that Saudi Arabia wasn’t doing enough to limit civilian casualties with its strikes in Yemen. They’ve put a blockade on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and were able to successfully pass the resolution in December. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate set to rebuke Trump on support for Saudi Arabia Sanders announces first staff hires in Iowa, New Hampshire Will Washington finally do something about high drug prices? MORE (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate who is cosponsoring the Yemen resolution, called the Senate’s vote on Wednesday an “extremely important day.”

“We can finally begin the process of reasserting Congress’s responsibility over war making. As every school child should know, Article 1 of the Constitution clearly states that it is Congress, not the president, that has the power to declare war,” Sanders said.

Most Republicans voted against the Yemen resolution on Wednesday, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators introduce bill to rein in president’s emergency powers McConnell opens door to changing president’s emergency powers Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (R-Ky.) urging senators to oppose it.

“I believe it is right for Senators to have grave concerns over some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s behavior, particularly the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is not what this resolution is about. … If Senators continue to have concerns about Saudi behavior, they should raise them in hearings, and directly with the administration, and directly with Saudi officials – as I have done,” McConnell said.

McConnell added that while the U.S. objective should be to end the years-long war in Yemen “this resolution will not end this conflict.”

But foreign policy has emerged as a consistent sticking point between Republicans and Trump, who put overhauling the party’s foreign policy at the center of his presidential campaign.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Republicans passed Russia sanctions legislation in 2017 despite objections from the White House. And GOP senators fumed during a closed-door meeting with Vice President Pence late last year after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria caught them flat footed—the president has since backed off his decision.

Murphy acknowledged that the only reason the Yemen resolution was getting through the Senate is because Democrats were able to pick up handful of GOP senators, adding that their “patience is running thin for the president’s foreign policy.”

“[But] we’re only getting a couple of Republicans on Yemen,” he added. “We shouldn’t overstate the Republican Trump renaissance.”

– Rebecca Kheel contributed

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