US Senate passes bill ending support for Yemen war

Passages offers rebuke to Saudi Arabia

US Senate passes bill ending support for Yemen war

The Senate voted Thursday to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen in a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a long-time U.S. ally.

The resolution was passed in the chamber 56-41.

The bill was co-sponsored by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, gaining renewed momentum following Saudi Arabia's murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his top officials have denied Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman role in Khashoggi's killing, despite bipartisan demands on Capitol Hill he be held responsible.

The co-sponsors had been working on the resolution for the past year, with only 44 senators voting in favor of the bill in March. In November, 60 lawmakers voted to advance the debate of the bill in the Senate.

The resolution faced stiff opposition from top Republicans including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said it went too far and advised lawmakers to not "pick a fight" with the executive branch, however, ending up passing with a simple majority.

Senators also passed an amendment to the resolution prohibiting the refueling of non-U.S. aircrafts in the Yemen war.

The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has devastated the country's infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times. 

"The U.S. will no longer participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth," Sanders said on the Senate floor Thursday. "Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will not be part of their military adventurism."

The bill needs to pass the Senate and the House of Representatives to make its way to the President Donald Trump's desk where it is unlikely to be signed into law.

The Trump administration has sought to maintain support for the war, arguing it serves as a means to curb Iranian influence in the region.

"It would encourage the Houthis. It would encourage the Iranians. It would undermine the fragile agreement for everyone to go to Sweden and have this discussion," Pompeo said to reporters last month after briefing the Senate.

While serving as a victory for many in the Senate, the bill is unlikely to be taken up in the House due to a provision passed in the chamber on Wednesday. 

The vote came after the UN Secretary General announced warring sides in the war agreed to a cease-fire and withdrawal from the port city of Al-Hudaydah during UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden.