- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2019

Senators fell short Thursday in a bid to overturn President Trump’s veto over U.S. involvement in the ongoing Yemen civil war, leaving the administration free to support the Saudi-led coalition backing one side in the conflict.

While a majority of the Senate voted against Mr. Trump, they fell short of the two-thirds needed to prevail.

The fight is largely symbolic, with the administration saying it’s not engaged in any actual fighting and had already ended jet refueling assistance to the Saudi coalition, so it’s not clear what the anti-Trump resolution would actually do.

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But the battle did serve as a juicy skirmish between Mr. Trump and some of his potential 2020 opponents, including Sen. Bernard Sanders, who led the effort to rein in the president and his war powers, and who called the vote a matter of “courage.”

“If you are a good constitutionalist, voting to override Trump’s veto should be a no-brainer because this war has not been authorized by Congress. It is unconstitutional,” the Vermont senator said, directly challenging Republicans.

Seven GOP senators joined him and Democrats in voting to override the president, saying it was time to reclaim Congress’s role in committing U.S. troops to war zones.

On the other side were GOP leaders and the White House, which said America’s limited role in backing the Saudi coalition is savings lives and tamping down on the ambitions of Iran. The Tehran regime is supporting the rebels who are battling the Yemeni government and the Saudi coalition.

“An abrupt withdrawal of U.S. support for the coalition would be good news for Iran, for the Houthi rebels they support, and for al Qaeda,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Overshadowing the debate is lingering anger at the Saudi government and particularly Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whom U.S. officials implicate in the government’s killing of a dissident journalist last year. Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was executed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Even Mr. Trump’s backers said they were dismayed by Khashoggi’s slaying and other aspects of the Saudi regime, but they argued the Yemen conflict was the wrong place to make a stand.

Rep. Jim Risch, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he is working on other legislation to try to right-size U.S.-Saudi affairs, though he backed Mr. Trump in Thursday’s vote.

Mr. Trump’s opponents were trying to be the fist to successfully flex the 1973 War Powers Resolution to end U.S. involvement in a conflict.

Under that law, if Congress can muster the votes it can bring to an end any presidential commitment of forces.

The Senate voted 54-46 in March to pass such a resolution, and the House approved it last month on a 247-175 vote. Mr. Trump quickly issued his veto — the second of his tenure — to reject the bill.

Senators again voted 53-45 on Thursday to override the veto — well shy of the two-thirds tally needed to succeed.

Mr. Sanders still took comfort.

“This is the beginning of a bipartisan process to take back our responsibility over these most important matters,” he said.

Confounding the withdrawal advocates’ argument were questions about what their resolution would actually do.

The U.S. had been providing refueling assistance for Saudi military jets, but ended that activity last year in the wake of the Khashoggi killing. Now, American aid is limited to logistics and intelligence — which officials said makes Saudi attacks more precise, saving innocent civilians’ lives.

The White House says none of the remaining activities constitute hostilities as envisioned by the War Powers Resolution, so even if the resolution had succeeded it wouldn’t have stopped any ongoing activities.

The seven Republicans who joined Democrats 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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