What does US senate's vote on Yemen mean?

  • 14 Dec 2018

The US senate voted for ending support to Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and condemning crown prince MBS's role in dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined at left by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., holds a news conference after the Senate passed a resolution he introduced that would pull assistance from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a measure to rebuke Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018 ( AP )

The US senate voted 56 to 41 on Thursday to support the Yemen resolution introduced by left-leaning Democratic Party leader Bernie Sanders, who was accompanied by senators Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, to seek an end to the US support to Saudi-led coalition operations in Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, triggering one of the world's most depressing humanitarian crisis, as the country grapples with endless violence, starvation and economic downfall. 

In a historic resolution, the US Congress voted in favor the US forces withdrawing their military engagement in Yemen under the 1973 War Powers Act

The law limits the president’s ability to commit the US forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

Trump administration is still supporting the Saudi-led coalition's military activities in Yemen.

Donald Trump refused to review the US arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the past, saying Riyadh did not how to use the US weapons that caused civilian death in Yemen.

"That was basically people that didn’t know how to use the weapon, which is horrible" he said, referring to Saudi-led coalition's air bombing that killed at least 51 people, including at least 40 children and wounded 77 in northern Yemen on August 9.

Soon after the Yemen vote, the senate accepted the resolution that holds Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman(MBS) responsible for murdering Khashoggi.

“Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution.

Trump said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and the prince, brushing aside the CIA assessment on Khashoggi's murder which clearly pointed fingers at the crown prince MBS. Trump said he will veto the war powers resolution.

What does the resolution mean in legal terms?

The senate's decision is largely symbolic because the resolution will have to pass through the House of Representatives, where the Republican leaders have blocked legislations intended to rebuke the Saudis in the past. 

The Republicans in the House had officially blocked negotiating any law draft related to Yemen till end of the year. 

Any resolution that is not accepted or vetoed by the president before the Congress's closing this year will become null and void. The process will have to be restarted in the next session.

The Democrats have won control of the US House of Representatives in 2018 midterm elections, and the House will be realigned in favor of the Democrats in January 2019. Democrats will have 234 seats in the House of Representatives against 198 Republicans seats, starting from January 2019.

If the resolution of ending support to Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and condemning MBS will be accepted in the House of Representatives, it will be considered as “enrolled.” Then it will be sent to the president, who has the acceptance and veto right.

According to the US laws, if the president vetoed the resolution, it will be sent back to both chambers.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives should accept the resolution with at least two thirds majority to override the president's veto right, and then the resolution about Yemen can become a law without Trump signature.

It's unlikely that the Republicans will lose the second round of the resolution in both chambers of the US Congress.

The Republicans have enough seats in both chambers to not lose the second round.