House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he does not support a measure passed by a decisive majority in the Senate that seeks to end U.S. military backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The measure, which cleared the Senate on a 63-to-37 vote on Wednesday, was widely seen as a historic rebuke of Saudi Arabia and President Trump’s handling of the fallout over Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month.
During an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, Ryan, who is retiring, said that he considers U.S.-imposed sanctions on the Saudis to be a “smarter tool” to express “moral clarity” on the issue.
“I don’t think the Yemen resolution is the smart way to go,” Ryan said at a Washington Post Live event.
He said he would prefer to see his successors in the House push for sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, which allows the State and Treasury departments to restrict travel and freeze the assets of individuals who have committed gross violations of human rights.
“I think Magnitsky is the way to go,” Ryan said. “I think it’s a smarter tool to use.”
Ryan added that even with the imposition of sanctions, the United States’ strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia would continue.
Thursday’s Senate vote was a procedural step, but one that reflected lawmakers’ growing frustration with Trump for defending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s denials of culpability in Khashoggi’s death, despite the CIA’s finding that he had almost certainly ordered the killing.
Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.
In the Senate, 14 Republicans joined all 49 members of the Democratic caucus in supporting the measure to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
In Thursday’s interview, Ryan also said his two biggest regrets from his career in the House were not doing more on immigration and debt reduction.
“Those are the two ones that you just had to mention that I think are the two regrets that I wish we could have gotten done,” Ryan said.
Felicia Sonmez, Karoun Demirjian, Carol Morello and John Hudson contributed to this report.