US Senate Withdraws Military Help for Saudis Over Khashoggi Killing

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis arrives to give House members a classified security briefing, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senators voted Thursday to pass a resolution “to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”

Senators from both sides of the aisle condemned the inhumanity and civilian death toll in the Yemen war, and laid blame for the killing of a Washington Post journalist at the feet of the Saudi leader Mohammed Bin Salman in a separate resolution that passed unanimously.

The resolutions are seen as a direct challenge to President Trump in the wake of his efforts to support the regime in Saudi Arabia and cast in doubt the author of the murder of Post writer Jamal Khashoggi.

The Yemen resolution was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders who said on the floor of the Senate,  “The bottom line is, the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with a dangerous and irresponsible military policy.”

Senators voted 56-41 to recommend that the U.S. stop supporting the war in Yemen, a direct affront to the administration’s war powers abilities. The vote to pull the U.S. out of a military conflict is the first time a chamber of Congress has done so under the 1973 War Powers Act.

On the Senate floor, Sanders said the U.S. is partly to blame for the violence and resulting famine in the region.

“In too many cases, our weapons are being used to kill civilians,” Sanders said. “In August, it was an American-made bomb that obliterated a school bus full of young boys, killing dozens and wounding many others.”

The powerfully worded resolution directed Trump to remove the U.S. military from Yemen within 30 days of the vote.

“Congress hereby directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except United States Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces, by not later than the date that is 30 days after the date of the adoption of this joint resolution,” said the text of S.J. Res. 54.

The resolution says the Senate believes the crown prince is “responsible for the murder” and calls for the Saudi Arabian government to “ensure appropriate accountability.”

Frustration with the crown prince and the White House prompted several Republicans to support the Yemen resolution as a way to rebuke the longtime ally. Others already had concerns about the war, which human rights groups say is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians, many of them children, to deadly disease and indiscriminate bombing.

The resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s slaying was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both Republicans voted against the Yemen resolution. McConnell said senators have grave concerns about Khashoggi’s killing, but “we also want to preserve a 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and we want to ensure it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region.”

It appears unlikely that the House would be willing to consider the Yemen resolution. House leaders added a provision to an unrelated House rule that would make it more difficult for lawmakers there to call it up.

CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed House leaders on the Khashoggi slaying on Wednesday, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed the full House on Thursday.

Pompeo and Mattis briefed the Senate last month and told senators there was “no direct reporting” or “smoking gun” to connect the crown prince to Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate. But a smaller group of senators leaving a separate briefing with Haspel days later said there was “zero chance” the crown prince wasn’t involved.

House Republicans were less eager than their Senate counterparts to criticize Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said after Thursday’s briefing that he was waiting to see the outcome of the administration’s ongoing investigation.

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