Senators who tried to kill Yemen bill have been paid by lobbyists


Roy Blunt, who voted against limiting the US's role in the Yemen war, received $19,200 from pro-Saudi lobbyists in 2017.

At least five of the 37 Republican Senators who voted against advancing a resolution limiting the United States' involvement in the war in Yemen have received campaign contributions from pro-Saudi lobbying groups.

Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Richard Burr, Mike Crapo and Tim Scott all received financial contributions from firms representing Saudi interests between 2016 and 2017, according to a recent investigation by the Centre for International Policy (CIP).

All five Republicans voted on Wednesday against advancing the resolution, which, if passed, would force the US to limit its support for the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.

Blunt, one of the two Senators from Missouri, received at least $19,200 in campaign contributions from firms representing Saudi Arabia in 2017, the CIP said, with Boozman, Burr, Crapo and Scott, representing Arkansas, North Carolina, Idaho and South Carolina respectively, receiving contributions ranging from $1,000-$2,500 between 2016 and 2017.

Al Jazeera reached out to the Senators but none of them responded to our requests for comment.

Last year, the oil-rich kingdom spent at least $24m to influence US policy and public opinion, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice made available through the Center for Responsive Politics' Foreign Lobby Watch tool.

Around $18m of that was paid to foreign agents acting on behalf of Saudi interests in 2017 and another $6m in spending has already been reported this year.

According to the CIP, it made Saudi Arabia one of the top 10 countries spending on influence and lobbying in the US.

But on Wednesday, the political donations appeared to have little effect when the US Senate opted to move forward with the resolution in a bipartisan 63-37 vote.

It's time to send Saudi Arabia a message

Delivering a massive blow to the Trump administration, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he flipped sides because of the way the government had handled the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I changed my mind because I'm pissed," Graham said following the vote.

"The way the administration has handled Saudi Arabia is not acceptable."

Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents certifying he had divorced his wife so he could remarry.

After weeks of repeated denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance, Riyadh eventually acknowledged that its officials were behind his murder.

In October, Graham had said he felt "completely betrayed" by the Saudis.

Senators on both sides of the political divide, many of whom have historically backed the US-Saudi relationship, have vented their anger over the killing and have pulled their support for the war in Yemen in an attempt to communicate their displeasure.

'Despotic, dishonest dictatorship'

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who had also previously opposed the Yemen resolution, said it was "time to send Saudi Arabia a message both on its violation of human rights and the incredible humanitarian catastrophe it's creating".

Yemen has been torn apart by conflict since 2014, when Houthi rebels, allied with troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, captured large expanses of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia launched a massive aerial campaign against the rebels in March 2015, aimed at restoring the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.