WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition's war in Yemen, bringing Congress one step closer to an unprecedented rebuke of President Donald Trump's foreign policy.
Lawmakers have never before invoked the decades-old War Powers Act to stop a foreign conflict, but they are poised to do just that in a bid to cut off U.S. support for a war that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
Trump has already threatened to veto the resolution, which the White House says raises "serious constitutional concerns."
The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Next, it will move to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to be approved.
The Senate approved the resolution by a vote of 54-46, with seven Republicans breaking with Trump to back the measure.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who voted against the measure, said he supported the existing military policy.
"Iran is running wild in Yemen right now," he said. "They're launching missiles into our allies' nations. They're destabilizing those allies as well. And a lot of what the Department of Defense does not only checks that Iranian aggression but also helps limit civilian casualties and suffering in Yemen. If we didn't offer that kind of technical assistance, it's apt to have an even more harmful effect for civilians in Yemen who are ultimately 100 percent the result of Iran. Not Saudi Arabia. Not the Emiratis. Not the government of Yemen."
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sanders said "The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with an irresponsible foreign policy."
In its statement threatening a veto, the White House argued the premise of the resolution is flawed and that it would undermine the fight against extremism. U.S. support for the Saudis does not constitute engaging in "hostilities," the statement said, and the Yemen resolution "seeks to override the president's determination as commander in chief."
"By defining 'hostilities' to include defense cooperation such as aerial refueling," the White House statement said, the Yemen resolution could also "establish bad precedent for future legislation."
Trump's support for Saudi Arabia has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia strongly enough for the killing.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addressed those tensions when he urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.
"We should not use this specific vote on a specific policy decision as some proxy for all the Senate's broad feelings about foreign affairs. Concerns about Saudi human-rights issues should be directly addressed with the administration and with Saudi officials," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
McConnell argued the Yemen resolution "will not enhance America's diplomatic leverage."
A similar resolution to end support for the Yemen war was approved by the Senate in December, but it was not taken up by the House, which at the time was controlled by Republicans.
Information for this article was contributed by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A Section on 03/14/2019
Print Headline: Senate backs end of role in Yemen