President Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

The Senate repudiating a president of the majority party on a matter of national security would be unusual under any circumstances. That it comes at a time when tensions with a major international foe are boiling over is nothing short of astonishing, a sign of how far President Trump has fallen as commander in chief even among Republicans.

The Post reports on the Senate’s vote to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia:

Trump has cited rising tensions with Iran as justification for using his emergency powers to complete the deals.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), had initially filed 22 resolutions of disapproval against the sales — one for every contract the administration had expedited by emergency order, effectively sidestepping congressional opposition. But after weeks of negotiations, Senate leaders agreed to hold just three votes, which will encompass the substance of all the blocking resolutions, congressional aides said.

In other words, senators don’t believe the president is playing it straight on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which set off a firestorm regarding the Saudis on Capitol Hill. They do not believe in Trump’s policy of making Saudi Arabia a proxy in a battle with Iran over regional dominance. And, moreover, the Senate is willing to undercut Trump at the precise moment his credibility and judgment are under fire in a standoff with Iran.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared from the Senate floor: “I must say, even in closed-door briefings with senators, the administration doesn’t spell out a strategy. This is not how democracy is supposed to work, and this is not how even the CEO of a major company should behave — with no articulated strategy. The president needs to explain to the American people why he is driving us towards another endless conflict in the Middle East.” On Saudi Arabia specifically, Schumer explained that the Senate was denying “the transfer of tens of thousands of precision-guided munitions that the Saudis have previously used to bomb innocent civilians in Yemen.”

The votes come after the United Nations issued a report far more revealing — and damning — about the grotesque Khashoggi murder and dismemberment. As Schumer said, “Last night, the United Nations issued a report that documented evidence that the Saudis meticulously planned the murder of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi and ‘forensically' disposed of the evidence. According to the report, the Saudis referred to Mr. Khashoggi as a ‘sacrificial animal’ and that dismembering the body would ‘be easy.’ ” And now, of all times, the administration wants to give Saudi Arabia access to weaponry that can slaughter more civilians in Yemen.

The president once more has gone to the well claiming “emergency” powers as a way to do an end run around Congress. The only emergency we have, however, is an utterly unfit commander in chief who has earned no deference from Congress, no trust from allies and no respect from foes.

Read more:

The Post’s View: Trump continues to kowtow to MBS. Congress has a chance to say no.

Jason Rezaian: Iran’s hollow rhetoric could result in war

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: We want peace for Yemen, but Saudi airstrikes must stop

Alkhatab Alrawhani: Yemen’s peace process is almost dead. Here’s how to revive it.

The Post’s View: A path has been laid out for holding Khashoggi’s murderers accountable

Tawakkol Karman: Enough is enough. End the war in Yemen.