Senate votes to end US military support for Saudis in Yemen

The Senate has passed a resolution calling for an end to US military support to the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, and asserting Congress’s right to decide on matters of war and peace.

The measure, which passed by 56 votes to 41, marked the first time the Senate had invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution to seek to curb the power of the president to take the US into an armed conflict. It marked a significant bipartisan rebuke to the Trump administration, which lobbied intensively against it.

The independent senator Bernie Sanders who had pushed the resolution persistently throughout the year, called it “a historic moment”.

He said: “Today we declare we will not long participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on earth, with 85,000 children starving to death. Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will no longer be part of their military adventurism.”

Sanders went on: “The War Powers Act was passed 45 years ago. Today for the first time we are going to go forward utilising that legislation, and tell the president of the United States that the constitutional responsibility for making war rests with the United States Congress, not the White House.”

The resolution still faces serious obstacles to becoming law. The House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans for another month, is unlikely to endorse it. The Democrats will take over the House next month, but the legislative process of passing the resolution would have to begin again. Then it would face a certain veto from Donald Trump, which would require a two-thirds vote in both houses to overturn.

However, the passing of the bipartisan resolution was a symbolic gesture reflecting lack of confidence in Trump’s handling of policy towards Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and in particular his personal support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Before being passed, the resolution was amended to make clear that mid-air refueling of Saudi coalition planes by US tankers constituted US participation in the Yemen hostilities.

Another amendment made it explicit that the resolution did not affect joint military operations with Israel, which convinced some wavering Republicans that it would not have unforeseen consequences for other alliances.

Although the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was not mentioned in the Yemen resolution, it played a role in souring senators towards Riyadh and Prince Mohammed.

Immediately after the Yemen measures was passed, it unanimously supported another resolution blaming the crown prince for the killing, a conclusion the administration has fought hard to resist.

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