Senate Defies Trump on Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi and Yemen

Senate Defies Trump on Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi and Yemen December 14, 2018

In a very rare action these days, the Republican-controlled Senate has passed a resolution condemning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and calling for the United States to withdraw all support for the Saudi war against Yemen.

The Senate on Thursday delivered back-to-back rebukes of President Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia, first voting to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen and then unanimously approving a measure blaming the kingdom’s crown prince for the ghastly killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Together, the dual actions represent an unambiguous rejection of Trump’s continued defense of Saudi leaders in the face of a CIA assessment that concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely ordered and monitored Khashoggi’s killing Oct. 2 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It suggests a bipartisan majority of senators will pursue broader punitive measures when Congress regroups next year — including sanctions and a halt to weapons transfers — despite the administration’s objections.

“What we showed in this vote today is that Republicans and Democrats are ready to get back in the business of working with a president — and sometimes against a president — to set the foreign policy of this nation,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) a longtime advocate for checking Saudi Arabia’s regional expansion. “The United States has said, through the Senate, that our support for the Saudi coalition is no longer open-ended.”

Unfortunately, it’s a non-binding resolution, but the unanimous vote on the Khashoggi matter is surprising and a very loud statement. The only other time Republicans in the Senate have stood up to Trump like this is when they voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia for their interference in the 2016 election. Also unfortunately, House Speaker Paul Ryan has blocked efforts to bring a similar resolution to the House floor, showing that he becomes an invertebrate in Trump’s presence.

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