WASHINGTON — The Senate again rebuked President Trump on Wednesday for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers.
The 54-46 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto, with the House expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, possibly later this month. The vote also might be the opening salvo in a week where Senate Republicans have the opportunity to hit back at the president’s aggressive use of executive power. On Thursday, the chamber will vote on a resolution that would overturn Mr. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall.
“The United States Congress is going to reassert its constitutional responsibility over issues of war that have been abdicated for presidents, Democrats and Republicans, for too many years,” Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, encouraged lawmakers on Wednesday to oppose the Yemen resolution, calling it “inappropriate and counterproductive” and warning them not to conflate their displeasure with the administration’s response to Mr. Khashoggi’s death with the broader issue of the conflict in Yemen. But in a show of defiance, seven Republican senators broke ranks to join the resolution.
Still, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and one of the lead backers of the Yemen resolution, however, warned that “we shouldn’t overstate the Republican anti-Trump renaissance,” noting that both resolutions under consideration this week had 50-vote thresholds and that Republican defections were relatively limited.
Supporters of the Yemen resolution have faced a long and grueling road to get the legislation onto the president’s desk. The Senate — led by the resolution’s authors, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Murphy and Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — first passed the measure 56 to 41 in December, but Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker at the time, refused to take up the resolution.
His successor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, did take it up, and the House easily passed it last month. But House Democrats inadvertently derailed the process by supporting a surprise procedural motion offered by Republicans to declare the chamber’s opposition to anti-Semitism. By attaching an unrelated amendment to the Yemen resolution, the House ended its “privileged” status, which would have forced the Senate to quickly take it up and send it to Mr. Trump. The vote on Wednesday was essentially a do-over, and House leadership and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wary of a repeat derailment, are already urging Democrats to oppose any unrelated amendments that Republicans might add.
The resolution is a rare use of the 1973 War Powers Act, which gave Congress the ability to compel the removal of military forces absent a formal declaration of war. Those powers, created in the wake of the Vietnam War, have almost never been used, as lawmakers have demurred from intervening in politically sensitive matters of war, peace and support for the troops.
The conflict in Yemen is proving to be different, and the resolution vote came as Republicans have become increasingly willing to register their unhappiness with Mr. Trump’s foreign policy. The Senate has rebuked the president on his plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and the House overwhelmingly registered its opposition to his threats to pull the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But anger over the administration’s dismissive response to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia-based columnist for The Washington Post, has been intense and sustained.
After first playing down his own intelligence officials’ reports that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the killing, Mr. Trump then blew past a legally mandated deadline that required the White House to report to Congress whether it believed the prince was personally responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death.
In an attempt to defuse rising anger on Capitol Hill, the White House sent two aides from the State and Treasury departments last week to a closed-door briefing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But senators on the panel were left unsatisfied, with some suggesting it was time for the full Senate to act.
“The Senate will have to decide whether it’s going to impose its own sanctions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said.
The Foreign Relations Committee, now overseen by Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, a Trump loyalist, however, has yet to report out bipartisan legislation introduced last month that would impose new sanctions on the kingdom.
Riyadh, anxious to turn a new page after the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan as its new ambassador to the United States last month. She will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of the crown prince, who took the post in 2017.