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Senate to Vote on Aid to Yemen         12/13 06:15

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators are expected to vote Thursday on a resolution 
that would call on the U.S. to pull assistance from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, 
a measure that would rebuke Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal 
Khashoggi.

   The Senate may also consider a separate resolution condemning the 
journalist's killing as senators have wrestled with how to respond to the Saudi 
journalist's murder. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi 
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but 
President Donald Trump has been reluctant to pin the blame.

   Senators voted 60-39 on Wednesday to open debate on the Yemen resolution, 
signaling there is enough support to win the 50 votes needed. But it's unclear 
how amendments to the measure could affect the final vote, which is expected to 
come Thursday.

   While enough Republicans support the resolution, which was sponsored by 
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of 
Vermont, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and most other Republicans oppose it.

   "I think every single member of this body shares grave concerns about the 
murder of Khashoggi and wants accountability," McConnell, R-Ky., said on the 
Senate floor Wednesday morning. "We also want to preserve a 70-year partnership 
between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and we want to ensure it continues 
to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region."

   Senators have been enraged by Khashoggi's October killing and the White 
House response, and that outrage prompted several Republicans to support the 
Yemen resolution because it would be seen as a rebuke to the longtime ally. 
Others already had concerns about the war in Yemen, which human rights groups 
say is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians, many of them 
children, to indiscriminate bombing and disease.

   Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from 
Tennessee, is preparing the separate, alternate resolution condemning the 
journalist's killing. McConnell urged senators to vote for Corker's measure, 
which he said "does a good job capturing bipartisan concerns about both the war 
in Yemen and the behavior of our Saudi partners more broadly." Corker has not 
released the full text of that resolution.

   It appears unlikely that the House would be willing to consider either 
measure. House leaders added a provision to an unrelated House rule that would 
make it harder for lawmakers there to call up a Yemen resolution if the Senate 
passes it. The rule barely passed, 206-203, after Democrats railed against the 
Yemen provision.

   CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed House leaders on the Khashoggi slaying on 
Wednesday, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis 
are scheduled to brief the full House on Thursday.

   Pompeo and Mattis briefed the Senate last month and told senators that there 
was "no direct reporting" or "smoking gun" to connect the crown prince to 
Khashoggi's death at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. But a smaller group of 
senators leaving a separate briefing with Haspel days later said there was 
"zero chance" the crown prince wasn't involved.

   Khashoggi, who had lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, had 
been critical of the Saudi regime. He was killed in what U.S. officials have 
described as an elaborate plot as he visited the consulate in Istanbul for 
marriage paperwork.

   Pressed on a response to the slaying, Trump has been reluctant to condemn 
the crown prince. He said the United States "intends to remain a steadfast 
partner" of the country, touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars to 
the U.S. and thanked the country for plunging oil prices.

   Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi 
with tranquilizers and then dismembered his body, which has not been found. 
Those findings came after Saudi authorities spent weeks denying Khashoggi had 
been killed in the consulate.

   Whatever is passed this month, lawmakers in both chambers have signaled that 
they will continue to press Saudi Arabia next year.

   The top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of 
New Jersey, is pushing tough legislation with a growing bipartisan group of 
senators that would halt arms sales and impose sanctions, to send what he 
called a "global message" to not just the Saudis but also to other regimes. 
"Just because you're our ally, you can't kill with impunity," Menendez said.

   "The current relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working," said Sen. 
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who supports Menendez's measure and is expected to 
become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019.  "You're never going 
to have a relationship with the United States Senate unless things change."

   House Democrats are also expected to keep the issue alive when they take the 
majority in January. The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, 
California Rep. Adam Schiff, said he intends to lead a "deep dive" into Saudi 
Arabia and Yemen. Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the likely incoming 
chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would hold hearings on 
Saudi Arabia early next year.


(KA)

 
 
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