The Senate is poised vote on Wednesday on ending U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting in Yemen, legislation that the White House has threatened to veto.
The measure is co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah. If it were to pass Congress, it would be the first time lawmakers have invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to halt American military involvement in a foreign conflict. It would also be another strong rebuke of President Donald Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia, which has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
“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. He said 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.”
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.”
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday 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” and will make it more difficult for the U.S. to end the conflict in Yemen and minimize civilian casualties.
A similar resolution to end support for the Yemen war passed the Senate in December, but it was not taken up under the then Republican-controlled House.
Approaching its fifth year, the war in Yemen has killed thousands and left thousands more on the brink of starvation, creating what the United Nations called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said if passed, the resolution “will be seen as a message to the Saudis that they need to clean up their act.”
“We are made weaker in the eyes of the world when we willingly participate in war crimes, when we allow our partners to engage in the slaughter of innocents,” Murphy said.