President Trump ignored this record last week when he vetoed a congressional resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the Yemen war under the War Powers Act. The president claimed that the resolution would weaken his constitutional authority as commander in chief and was “unnecessary,” since “there are no United States military personnel in Yemen commanding, participating in or accompanying military forces of the Saudi-led coalition.” He contended that the logistical and intelligence support the administration is supplying Saudi Arabia does not amount to engaging in hostilities.
In reality, the Saudi bombing campaign would be unsustainable without that U.S. support, or the continuing sale of bombs and other materiel. That makes the Trump administration complicit in the continuing atrocities, such as the latest school and hospital bombings. It also means that Congress must look for other ways to force a change in U.S. policy toward the regime led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose record of extraordinary recklessness in foreign policy has been matched by unprecedented domestic repression.
The ideal approach would be to address both, because they are intertwined. That is the strategy of a bipartisan Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, along with Republicans Todd C. Young (Ind.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine). In addition to suspending arms transfers to the kingdom until it ends bombing and other offensive activity in Yemen, it seeks to force accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by mandating sanctions on any person who was complicit in his death. The bill would appear to have a good chance of passing, but the Republican leadership, including committee Chairman James E. Risch (Idaho), has not yet allowed a vote.
We’re told Mr. Risch is working on his own bill with the aim of attracting wide support, including from Mr. Trump. That could mean legislation that restricts visas or applies other pressure to Saudis until political prisoners — such as the women jailed for advocating greater rights — are released. It could also impose sanctions on those who block humanitarian aid in Yemen. However, a bill acceptable to Mr. Trump probably would have to exclude any punishment of Mohammed bin Salman for the Khashoggi murder or a ban on arms deliveries.
Mr. Risch, who is new to his post, is right to make the effort. But handing a free pass to the crown prince after U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded he was responsible for the Khashoggi murder would be an invitation to further atrocities. Republicans such as Mr. Graham who have insisted on accountability for the crown prince should not back down.