Senate rebukes Trump with vote ordering US military to end support for Saudi-led war in Yemen

A Yemeni man inspects a destroyed petrol station after it was targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes on the outskirts of Sanaa in May 2018.


By KAROUN DEMIRJIAN | The Washington Post | Published: March 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, its latest rebuke of the Trump administration's continued embrace of the Saudi regime despite growing frustration among lawmakers with its actions on the world stage.

The vote marks the second time in recent months that the Senate has rejected the United States' continued participation in the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels, waged in the name of holding back Iranian expansion in the Gulf. But the Saudi-led effort, which has at times targeted civilian facilities and prevented aid shipments from getting to Yemenis in need, has been faulted by human rights organizations for exacerbating what the United Nations has deemed the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.

"We should not be associated with a bombing campaign that the UN tells us is likely a gross violation of human rights," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

For supporters, the resolution is not just about taking a moral stand on human rights, but also about asserting Congress' fundamental constitutional privilege to declare war.

"Today we begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional authority by ending U.S. involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is clearly unconstitutional," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chief sponsor of the resolution, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Sanders teamed up with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on the legislation, which seeks to invoke the War Powers Resolution to curtail American participation in the Yemen war. If successful, it would mark the first time that Congress has successfully invoked the war powers resolution to end U.S. engagement in a conflict.

But opponents of the resolution warned Wednesday that it is "fundamentally flawed," and will compromise efforts to encourage a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the Yemen conflict by making the U.S. position appear fractured.

"It is going to send a message to people that they don't need to negotiate right now, that they are actually making gains," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, said on the Senate floor Wednesday just before the vote. "I would urge my colleagues to vote against this at this time and give peace a change through the negotiations."

Supporters, however, argued that "if we pass this resolution, peace becomes more likely," as Murphy put it Wednesday, arguing that when the Senate cast a similar vote last year, it seemingly helped push the parties in the Yemen war toward declaring a cease fire.

The resolution must still be taken up in the House, where members passed a nearly identical resolution to end U.S. participation in the Yemen war earlier this year.

It is unlikely, however, that either chamber will have the votes necessary to resuscitate the measure if President Donald Trump vetoes it.

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