The Senate voted 56-41 Thursday to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and by unanimous consent passed a separate resolution placing the blame for the Oct. 2 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Senate Joint Resolution 54, sponsored by Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee, marks the first time any congressional body has recalled U.S. military forces from a military conflict using the 1973 War Powers Act, and both measures are largely viewed as symbolic in light of strict opposition in the Republican-led House of Representatives and the White House.
The U.S. has supported the Saudi-led effort to wrestle control of Yemen from Houthi rebels since the conflict erupted in May 2015, when the Yemeni capital of Sana’a fell and the country’s president resigned. The resulting civil war has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis.
U.S. support has largely been in the form of aerial refueling, and on Thursday the Department of Defense sent Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates a $331 million bill for the refueling of their military planes flying missions over Yemen.
Lee tweeted that the passage of the resolution was a victory for the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution.
All 47 Senate Democrats voted for S.J.Res. 54, and were joined by Sanders and Republicans Bob Corker (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Todd Young (Ind.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). Independent Maine Sen. Angus King also voted for the resolution.
Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was a co-sponsor of the legislation to name bin Salman as responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) did not vote on the measures.
Earlier this month, CIA Director Gina Haspel discussed the Khashoggi case with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, resulting in a number of prominent Republican senators, including Graham, to publicly denounce the Saudi crown prince.
“You have to be willfully blind to not come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS (Mohammed bin Salman), and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham said. “I want to make sure that Saudi Arabia is put on notice that business as usual has come to an end for me. I will not look at the kingdom the same way that I used to look at it. I will not support arms sales until all those responsible for the death of Mr. Khashoggi have been brought to justice and I will no longer support the war in Yemen as constructed.”