- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Senate voted Wednesday to order President Trump to end military assistance for a Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, dealing at least a symbolic blow to the White House’s foreign policy.

It was also a significant coup for Sen. Bernard Sanders, a potential Trump 2020 opponent, who led the push for the move, flexing the War Powers Resolution.

The 54-46 vote saw seven Republicans join with Mr. Sanders and the rest of the Democratic Caucus in rebuking Mr. Trump, and sending a message to Saudi Arabia as well.

“The bottom line is the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with a dangerous and irresponsible foreign policy,” Mr. Sanders said.

His legislation calls for an end to a U.S. role in hostilities in Yemen, a nation of nearly 30 million people at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, where fighting between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebel movement, backed by Iran, has been raging for four years.

The U.S. has provided refueling for Saudi coalition aircraft, but that ended last year after the Saudi regime was implicated in the murder of one of its citizens, journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now, the U.S. provides logistics intelligence support, which officials say chiefly helps limit civilian casualties.

No American troops are involved, leaving the White House and others to question whether the resolution would have any effect.

The resolution would not curtail U.S. special forces involved in fighting al Qaeda or allied terrorist groups — a mission that Congress explicitly authorized in 2001. Assistance for Yemen, though, has never been directly approved by Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had pleaded with colleagues not to pull the reins right now.

He said frustration with Saudi Arabia is expected after the regime admitted to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, but he said undercutting the coalition’s efforts in Yemen would hand a victory to Iran’s faction.

“Our focus should be on ending the war in Yemen responsibly,” he said. “Pulling the plug on support to our partners only undermines the very leverage and influence that we need to help facilitate the U.N.’s diplomatic efforts.”

He also said it could hurt the anti-al Qaeda effort still underway on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Senate passed a similar resolution last year in the wake of the Khashoggi murder, but it did not receive a vote in the GOP-led House.

Now with Democrats in control, that chamber is likely to take up and pass the measure. It passed a similar one last month.

But the White House has promised a veto on whatever emerges, and Wednesday’s vote signals there’s more than enough support for the president to sustain that.

“Because the president has directed United States forces to support the Saudi-led coalition under his constitutional powers, the joint resolution would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent that it seeks to override the president’s determination as commander in chief,” the White House said in a statement this week.

No presidential military commitment has ever been ended by vote of Congress under the War Powers Resolution.

The 1973 law was supposed to provide a check on the growing number of international military entanglements presidents committed the U.S. to, without actually seeking a war declaration or other authorization from Congress.

Under the law, the president is required to notify Congress of any commitment of armed forces and requires congressional approval if the hostilities last beyond 60 days.

President Obama tested the limits of the law in 2011 when he committed the U.S. to support a European-led aerial bombing campaign in Libya. He claimed that didn’t meet the threshold of hostilities required to trigger the law.

Now, the Trump administration argues that its logistics support falls short of the hostility threshold the law envisions.

The seven Republicans who backed Wednesday’s vote were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana.

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