Fire and smoke rises from the Aden oil refinery following a reported shelling attack by Shiite Huthi rebels in the embattled southern Yemeni city of Aden on July 13, 2015.

Source: Frank Camp

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 63-37 in favor of S.J.Res.54, or “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”

The vote allows the bill to advance from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Senate floor for debate, which will likely take place next week.

As its title explains, the resolution, co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT), among others, calls for the president to pull U.S. forces out of Yemen. The United States has been aiding the Saudi-backed fight against Houthi rebels in the Yemeni civil war since 2015.

The text of the resolution reads in part:

Congress hereby directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except United States Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces, by not later than the date that is 30 days after the date of the adoption of this joint resolution (unless the President requests and Congress authorizes a later date), and unless and until a declaration of war or specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces has been enacted.

The legislation previously failed to attract enough votes when it was introduced earlier this year. On March 20, the Senate voted 55-44 to table the motion to discharge the resolution from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

President Trump’s tepid response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoghi seems to have pushed several senators to change their vote on this resolution. According to a CIA “high confidence” assessment, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia was likely aware of the plan to murder Khashoggi, or directed it himself.

Prior to the vote in the Senate, Lee explained the purpose of the resolution, as well the reason he believes the United States’ involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen is “unconstitutional.”

He added:

The situation in Yemen now poses a true humanitarian crisis. The country is on the brink of rampant disease and mass starvation. An estimated 15 mil- lion people don’t have access to clean water and sanitation, and 17 million don’t have access to food. More innocent lives are being lost every single day.

My position on this has not changed for the past 8 months, but with the taking of another innocent life—that of Jamal Khashoggi—the circumstances have only further deteriorated.

Intelligence suggests, despite his repeated denials, that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself ordered the murder. Saudi Arabia’s moral depravity has only been made plainer.

This is not an ally that deserves our support or military intervention on its behalf, especially when our own security is not itself on the line. On the contrary, to continue supporting them in this war would be bad diplomacy and undermine our very credibility.

U.S. intervention in Yemen is unauthorized, unconstitutional, and immoral. We must not—we cannot—delay voting to end our involvement and our support of Saudi Arabia any further. If we do, we have ourselves to blame for our country’s lost credibility on the world stage, and, more importantly, our own consciences will bear the blame for the thousands of lives that will surely continue to be lost.

Lee also spoke with The Daily Wire about the resolution:

DW: What do you believe brought about the change in opinion from the initial vote to now?

LEE: In March, we received 44 votes when we tried to discharge it from committee. Yesterday, we received 66 votes. That’s a big swing, and I attribute that swing to several things. First, with the passage of time and with this war continuing to move on, people are becoming more aware of it. Second, there have been more civilian casualties including a bomb that the Saudis dropped on a school bus with 44 young schoolchildren who were killed.

And then the Khashoggi incident occurred, which helped shine a bright light on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and let’s face it, we’re doing the bidding of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in this war in Yemen. We’re fighting their war half a world away in a conflict that is not of our own making, and doesn’t have any direct connection to the safety of the American people.

DW: Do you think a portion of the votes have simply come as a result of the Khashoggi incident, and not necessarily because the war is, as you describe, unconstitutional?

LEE: There’s a constitutional issue, which is inextricably intertwined with a moral issue. Any time a nation goes to war, there are immense moral questions posed by that because what you’re taking about is putting your own country’s armed services personnel on the line. When we’re asked to put American blood and treasure on the line, that’s a significant thing, and that’s exactly why there’s a constitutional requirement that it be declared or authorized by Congress.

That moral component is compounded when people see that not only are we fighting a non-declared war, an unauthorized war, an unconstitutional war, but one with some particularly significant moral questions attached to it. Those moral questions are compounded further when we see evidence of the fact that this is not a particularly gentle regime we’re dealing with.

DW: What happens from here?

LEE: Next week, we will have a second vote to proceed to the bill. I hope and expect that we will be able to hold the votes and get on to the bill. Then members will have an opportunity to debate it, discuss it, and amend it, and ultimately vote on the finished product.

According to Lee, the world is watching Saudi Arabia, and watching to see how the United States will respond. “I think the Khashoggi incident has helped draw enough eyes in our direction that it’s causing a lot of people to rethink the wisdom of being there.”