WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump’s embattled Yemen policy received a lifeline Thursday as the U.S. Senate failed to override his veto of a measure that would end American support for the Saudi-led coalition in a country devastated by war.
Congress dealt Trump a harsh rebuke in March when both chambers passed a historic resolution that would have curtailed a president’s war-making powers, and on April 16 Trump issued just the second veto of his presidency to block the measure.
The Senate on Thursday voted 53 to 45 to override Trump’s veto. But 67 votes are needed to do so in the 100-member chamber, and the minority Democratic camp could only muster crossover support from a handful of Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports Trump on Yemen, said the vote offered lawmakers “a second chance to send the right message regarding America’s commitments to our partners in the region, to important humanitarian missions, and to eradicating al-Qaida from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Trump has argued that U.S. support for the bloody war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels was necessary for a variety of reasons, including protecting the safety of more than 80,000 Americans residing in certain coalition countries.
Democrats have long complained that U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict — through intelligence-sharing, logistical support and now-discontinued aerial refueling — is unconstitutional without congressional authority.
Bernie Sanders, the liberal senator who is running for president in 2020 and is a sponsor of the resolution that passed Congress, framed the veto vote as a life or death issue.
“We can save thousands upon thousands of people if we override Donald Trump’s veto,” he tweeted shortly before the vote.
The war in Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of famine.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015, while rights groups say the toll could be far higher.
Another U.S. presidential hopeful, Sen. Kamala Harris, called Trump’s veto a “mistake,” and that U.S.-backed war “has led to famine, destruction, and senseless death.”
Bipartisan anger has simmered in Congress since the murder last October of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by commandos from Riyadh.