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With the chamber set to take up two competing measures denouncing Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday morning urged his colleagues to show restraint and embrace a more modest bill that would condemn Riyadh for the killing of a U.S. journalist but wouldn’t formally cut off all backing for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, told fellow senators they should vote against a bipartisan bill that would end all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Instead, he said lawmakers should back a more modest bill put forward by outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
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Mr. Corker’s bill would formally declare Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “responsible” for the October murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a shocking slaying that drew global condemnation and called into question the decades-long Washington-Riyadh relationship.
The competing bills underscore the difficulty Washington has encountered in striking the right balance of holding Saudi Arabia — and the crown prince in particular — accountable for the unprecedented murder while not upending the sensitive and strategically important U.S.-Saudi relationship.
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“Where Saudi Arabia is concerned, I think every single member of this body shares grave concerns about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and wants accountability,” Mr. McConnell said during his Senate floor speech. “We also want to preserve a 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia — and we want to ensure that it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region.”
Mr. McConnell went on to blast the harsher measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, as inappropriate and potentially dangerous.
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“There are more careful ways the Senate could express its concern about...
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