The US Senate on Wednesday voted to end US support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war in Yemen, bringing the US Congress one step closer to an unprecedented rebuke of US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
US lawmakers have never before invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to stop a foreign conflict, but they are poised to do just that in the bid to cut off US support for a war that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
The vote puts Congress on a collision course with Trump, who has already threatened to veto the resolution, which the White House said raises “serious constitutional concerns.”
The measure was cosponsored by US senators Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Mike Lee, a Republican. It is next to move to the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.
The resolution passed by a vote of 54 to 46, with seven Republican senators breaking with Trump to back the resolution: Lee, Susan Collins, Steve Daines, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul and Todd Young.
“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,” Sanders said on Wednesday from the Senate floor.
A vote in favor of the measure would “begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional authority by ending United States involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is unconstitutional,” Sanders said.
In its statement threatening a veto, the White House argued that the premise of the resolution is flawed and that it would undermine the fight against Muslim militancy.
US support for Saudi Arabia does not constitute engaging in “hostilities,” the statement said, adding that 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 Yemen resolution could also “establish bad precedent for future legislation,” the White House statement said.
Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia strongly enough for the killing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell 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.
The Yemen resolution “will not enhance America’s diplomatic leverage,” and would make it more difficult for the US to help end the conflict in Yemen and minimize civilian casualties, McConnell said
Approaching its fifth year, the war in Yemen has killed thousands and left millions on the brink of starvation, creating what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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