WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday approved a resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to cut-off U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s bloody civil war, a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his defense of the Saudi monarchy.
“The momentum is on one side, and it’s only growing,” Murphy said in a statement after the resolution won a 56-41 bipartisan vote. “Congress has woken up to the reality that the Saudi-led Coalition is using U.S. military support to kill thousands of civilians, bomb hospitals, block humanitarian aid and arm radical militias.
The leaders of the oil-rich kingdom remain “important partners,” Murphy said, “but they need to realize that our partnership is not a blank check for them to fund extremists and murder civilians.”
Saudi Arabia earned worldwide condemnation for the role of its day-to-day leader, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in allegedly ordering the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.
Once viewed as an indispensable ally, Saudi Arabia also has fallen in the eyes of lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill — even as Trump contradicted the CIA’s finding that the prince, known by the acronym MBS, almost certainly had Saudi agents execute Khashoggi and dismember his body.
Just after the vote, the Senate also passed by voice vote a non-binding resolution stating that MBS ordered the killing.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of the Saudi campaign in Yemen since it started in 2015. The proxy war pits Saudi Arabia on the side of Yemen’s government, against Houthi rebels supported by the Trump administration’s chief enemy in the region, Iran.
The devastation and resulting security vacuum in the region has allowed terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to flourish in the region, Murphy has argued. He appeared late last month at a news conference in Hartford with Yemeni residents of Connecticut to press the case for passage of the main resolution.
The resolution sets in motion the War Powers Act, giving Trump 30 days in which to halt all U.S. help for Saudi Arabian aircraft over Yemen or get Congressional approval.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also supported the resolution and expressed approval over the result.
“Given the role of the Saudi government in perpetrating the 9/11 attacks, the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-inflicted humanitarian crisis, this reevaluation of the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is long overdue,” Blumenthal said.
The resolution must now pass the Republican-controlled House, where its future is uncertain. But it may fare better when Democrats take over the House in January.