Washington, Nov 29 : The US Senate has issued a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump, easily advancing a resolution that would end American military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen civil war despite a White House effort to quash the bill.
The administration on Wednesday launched an 11th-hour lobbying frenzy to try to head off momentum for the resolution, dispatching Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Capitol Hill in the morning and issuing a veto threat less than an hour before the vote started, The Hill magazine reported.
But lawmakers advanced the resolution, 63-37, even as the administration vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia following the outcry over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“There’s been a lot of rhetoric that’s come from the White House and from the State Department on this issue,” said Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
“The rhetoric that I’ve heard and the broadcasts that we’ve made around the world as to who we are have been way out of balance as it relates to American interests and American values.”
The vote advances the resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee, making it available for action before the full Senate.
The small step is a significant victory for supporters of the resolution, which fell six votes short of passage in March.
Senators were increasingly frustrated with Saudi Arabia amid growing questions about Khashoggi’s death and whether Riyadh was actively trying to limit civilian deaths in Yemen.
The next Senate vote on the measure is uncertain.
The Senate is expected to delay any additional votes related to the resolution until next week as the chamber works through a slate of previously scheduled nomination votes.
Senators were also privately discussing amending the resolution on the Senate floor, which would set up the sort of unpredictable outcome Republican leadership likes to avoid.
In addition to briefing senators, the Pentagon and State Department took the rare step of publicly releasing Mattis and Pompeo’s closed-door opening statements ahead of the briefing, and Pompeo spoke to reporters in the Senate basement afterward, The Hill reported.
In the briefing, Mattis and Pompeo argued that withdrawing US support from the war would undermine efforts to improve Saudi targeting and broker peace at a time when those talks appear on the precipice of starting.
The White House had warned that it “strongly opposes” passage of the resolution and that advisers would recommend Trump veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
But the Trump administration’s tactic appeared to backfire, with several senators coming out in support of taking up the resolution after the briefing, saying the administration’s argument was unconvincing and that the White House made a fatal miscalculation by not sending CIA Director Gina Haspel to speak with Senators.
The CIA denied that the White House made the decision not to send Haspel. But even senators who did not support the resolution nonetheless said the briefing was inadequate without her.