US Senators, who want to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Thursday they would vote for the punishment of Riyadh next week, but were struggling to reach an agreement on how best to do so be.
Despite Donald Trump's desire to maintain close ties with Saudi Arabia, several of his Republicans, along with the Democrats, blamed the Crown Prince for Khashoggi's death and supported the legislation by ending US support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen and imposed new sanctions and stop selling weapons.
Others strongly oppose the connection of the Yemen conflict with the murder of the journalist.
"It would be a mistake to break this relationship with the Saudis. It is based less on friendship than on common interests, the fight against extremism in the Middle East, and the fight against the Iranian threat, "said Senator John Cornyn, Republican No. 2 of the Chamber.
Five Republican and Democratic senators met behind closed doors on Thursday morning to discuss how to move forward. After that, they would not have found a compromise that could win the support of both parties for the Senate.
The lack of agreement was in contrast to the harsh words of some senators on Tuesday against the Crown Prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, who denied the knowledge of the operation that killed Khashoggi on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul ,
A Tuesday CIA director Gina Haspel's briefing for senators reinforced her determination to crack down on Prince Mohammed, who has Trump's backing.
Three different measures enforce the Senate: a war-power resolution that ends any US involvement in the Yemen conflict; Legislation that broadly fights Saudi Arabia, including the cessation of arms sales and the imposition of new sanctions; and a non-binding resolution aimed at the crown prince.
It is expected that the Senate will vote on the resolution of the war powers next week, but the legislature has not yet agreed on how or whether it should be changed. Some have asked if the resolution is legal at all, and others said they wanted an answer to Khashoggi's death, but agree with the Trump administration that Washington should continue to support the Saudis as an important counterweight to Iran.
Saudi Arabia is campaigning in Yemen against the Houthis, Shiite Muslim fighters, who regard Yemen's neighbors as agents of Iran. The war has killed more than 10,000 people and caused the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.
Fourteen Republicans, who have a narrow majority in the Senate and rarely break from the president, have rejected Trump and voted with the Democrats to push forward the resolution of the war powers.
But to become law, the resolution would not only have to pass the Senate this month, but also the House of Representatives and Trump's signature, which is not expected this year. Proponents, however, said that only the passage of the Senate was still an important step.
"Voting on the resolution is a very harsh message to Saudi Arabia that the relationship is changing. And you can interpret that as a message about the Yemen war, but you can interpret that as a message on Khashoggi, "Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, a co-sponsor, told reporters.
It was not immediately clear whether the more comprehensive legislation would be adopted for a Senate vote before the legislature comes home for the year and a new Congress is in January, or whether some provisions could be added to the measure of the warring powers.