The world’s worst humanitarian crisis for now comes out of war- and famine-ravaged Yemen, a topic on which the Congress and President Donald Trump are officially divided.
Overseas, the Yemen conflict is a proxy war between U.S. nemesis Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. In Washington, it amounts to a low-impact political argument over Trump administration fealty to the oil-rich kingdom.
Trump on Wednesday issued the second veto of his presidency, blocking a symbolic House and Senate resolution that called for ending American material support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to crush the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said in a statement.
In fact, it marked a rare bipartisan use of the 1973 War Powers Act curbing a president’s power to make military commitments without Congress.
American involvement is currently limited to providing Saudi Arabia with weapons and intelligence.
Since Congress lacks the votes for a two-thirds override, the president’s veto is expected to stand, as did his previous one opposing his use of “emergency powers” to fund a border wall.
In November, after the Saudi assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump administration announced it would stop refueling the kingdom’s military aircraft flying in Yemen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month rebuked senators who backed the House/Senate resolution.
“We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation,” he argued. “But the Trump administration fundamentally disagrees that curbing our assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is the way to achieve these goals.
“If you truly care about Yemeni lives, you’d support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state of the corrupt, brutish Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.
Trump has generally spoken against U.S. involvement in foreign clashes. So has his frequent ally Sen. Rand Paul — who backed the resolution.
“I’m only saying stop one sale of arms to send a message that we are done with the war in Yemen,” Paul (R-Ky.) said. “That we are no longer going to sell weapons to countries that are fighting this war in Yemen. That the war must come to a close.”
Criticism of the veto came from the expected places.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised,” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Twitter. “The people of Yemen desperately need humanitarian help, not more bombs.”
“From a president elected on the promise of putting a stop to our endless wars, this veto is a painful missed opportunity,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the resolution’s chief House sponsor.
Observers have long noted Trump and his aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner will rely on Saudi support in presenting a longshot Israel-Palestine peace proposal, which has yet to be made more than two years into the administration.