Senate votes to end US support for Saudi-led Yemen conflict despite Trump's veto threat

US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew H Tueller (5th-L) arrives at Mukalla airport, southwestern Yemen, on November 29, 2018.
Saleh Al-Obeidi | AFP | Getty Images

The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday to end American support for a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in a challenge to President Donald Trump's relationship with the oil-rich Saudi kingdom.

The proposal passed by a 54-46 vote — short of the two-thirds majority the Senate would need to overcome Trump's expected veto.

The rare bipartisan admonishment of the president, if it became law, would force the U.S. to stop backing a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the bloody conflict. The U.S. gives only limited support to the forces. But the measure rebukes Trump as lawmakers grow increasingly concerned about both the White House's policies toward Saudi Arabia and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The Democratic-held House is expected to take up and pass the resolution. Still, the White House has threatened a veto if the bill makes it to Trump's desk. Congress likely does not have the votes to overcome Trump's veto.

The vote Wednesday is expected to be the first of two bipartisan rebukes of the president this week. On Thursday, the Senate is expected to pass a bill to block Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. The president is also set to veto that proposal if the Senate approves it.

Senators across the ideological spectrum have backed the measure to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict, a step that Congress did not authorize. Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have led the effort in the Senate.

They have cited the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where famine and disease have ravaged the populace. They have also criticized Trump's warm relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, particularly after the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ahead of the vote, the measure's backers argued that U.S. support for the Saudi-led forces in Yemen is not only immoral but also illegal.

"I urge my colleagues once against to vote to end our involvement in this unauthorized, unjustified, unconstitutional and immoral war," Lee said Wednesday.

Sanders called it a "catastrophic and unconstitutional war." Murphy said the U.S. had "a chance to end our support for this nightmare" through the resolution.

The White House has opposed the measure through various congressional attempts to pass it. The Senate approved it once in December. But the House, then controlled by Republicans, never took it up.

The House, under new Democratic control in February, then passed the war powers resolution. But due to a procedural issue, it will have to vote on the Senate-passed version again.

In a statement Wednesday threatening a veto, the White House argued that the measure "would harm bilateral relationships in the region."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also opposed the resolution.In remarks Wednesday, he called it "inappropriate and counterproductive."

It is unclear how quickly the House plans to take up the war powers resolution.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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