The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, ratcheting up pressure on President Donald Trump who has aligned himself with the Saudi kingdom in the aftermath of the brutal killing.
Just prior to passing the resolution, the Senate also overwhelming approved a resolution by a 56-41 vote that would require the US to end its military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a move aimed both at ending that war and expressing anger at the Trump administration’s handling of relations with Saudi Arabia.
The vote on the Yemen resolution reflected the frustration senators from parties have with the vast human suffering from the war and President Donald Trump’s embrace of the crown prince despite widely-accepted evidence from US intelligence agencies that he ordered the killing Khashoggi.
While the resolution condemning the crown prince, introduced by Republican Sen. Bob Corker, serves as an implicit rebuke of the President’s own response to the death of Khashoggi and is one of several legislative efforts to target the crown prince and the Trump administration’s policy towards Saudi Arabia.
Resolution condemning the Khashoggi murder
If the Corker resolution also passes the House, it will land on Trump’s desk and force him to make a choice: Sign it and side with Congress or veto it and side with the Saudis.
Asked if Speaker Paul Ryan supports bringing up this resolution for a House vote next week, Ryan’s office was non-committal. “The House isn’t back in session until Wednesday but we’ll keep you posted,” said AshLee Strong, the speaker’s spokeswoman.
The resolution states that the Senate “believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi” and “calls for the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure appropriate accountability for all those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged senators not to vote for the Yemen resolution and instead urged support for the Corker resolution, which he said, “does a good job capturing bipartisan concerns about both the war in Yemen, and the behavior of our Saudi partners.”
Republican senators emerged from a classified briefing on the Khashoggi murder earlier this month suggesting that there was little doubt that the Saudi crown prince should be held responsible.
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intrinsically involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a critic-turned-ally of Trump’s, at the time.
The President, however, has steered clear of blaming the Saudi leader.
“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump told Reuters on Tuesday in an Oval Office interview.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, utilized the War Powers Act to attempt to force an end to US involvement in the war, even as GOP leaders argued it wasn’t necessary because the US was not directly involved in combat and had stopped refueling war planes from Saudi Arabia and other counties in its coalition.
Despite the broad support in the Senate, the GOP-led House is not expected to take a vote on it, meaning the legislation will die at the end of the year when the current congressional session ends.
By Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, CNN