Senate Rebuke of Trump on Yemen Falls Short of Veto Override

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate failed to override Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, demonstrating the limit of majority Republicans’ willingness to oppose the president.

Trump last month vetoed the bipartisan resolution that calls for removal of U.S. armed forces from Yemen hostilities within 30 days unless Congress authorizes further engagement. The 53-45 vote Thursday was short of the two-thirds majority needed in the chamber to overturn the president.

The resolution stemmed from lawmakers’ concern about Saudi Arabia’s actions in the region, as well as the use of U.S. military resources without an authorization vote by Congress in a conflict that began during the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally against the influence of Iran, leads a coalition in the civil war that has devastated neighboring Yemen, and the kingdom also is accused of killing columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Republicans in Congress have generally done little to push back at Trump, even on policies opposed by a majority of Americans such as starting a trade war or shutting down the government over funding disputes. The passage of the bipartisan Yemen resolution was a rare example of Congress defending its constitutional authority, though it ended in upholding the president’s veto.

In his veto message, Trump defended U.S. support of the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Houthi rebels as essential to protect Americans in the region and to fend off Iran’s influence. He said the resolution was unnecessary because there are no U.S. troops “commanding, participating in, or accompanying” the fighters supported by Saudi Arabia.

Humanitarian Crisis

The war in Yemen, now in its fifth year, has produced what United Nations officials call the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of current times. Republicans and Democrats alike have called for the end of U.S. involvement in the conflict, including GOP Trump allies in the Senate such as Rand Paul and Mike Lee and progressive House Democrats like Ro Khanna. Other Republicans have also called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia and an end to arms sales to the kingdom.

Veto overrides are rare. There have only been 111 in U.S. history, according to the Senate, including five in the last three administrations. In 2016, Congress overturned President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill allowing families of Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

The Senate’s failure to reach a two-thirds vote against Trump is noteworthy because the same margin would be required to remove the president from office if the House voted to impeach him.

Some Democrats have called for impeachment proceedings based on evidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has discouraged party members from moving forward because of the lack of support in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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