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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the biggest opponents to sending U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia's civil war in Yemen took issue with President Donald Trump's veto of a bill that would end American involvement in the ongoing conflict.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he was disappointed but not surprised at the president's decision. Presidents in both parties have increasingly exercised more and more of the war power that belongs to Congress, he said.
"I hope my colleagues will continue to recognize we’re fighting a war in which we have no business fighting. We’re fighting a war that’s never been declared by Congress," he said Wednesday.
Lee and Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams were the only members of Utah's congressional delegation to vote for legislation to end U.S. support to the war in Yemen.
The U.S. has backed Saudi Arabia in the fight against the Houthis, an Islamic sect that seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and other parts of the country four years ago. The war has created refugees, orphans and widows, displaced countless families and left millions of people lacking access to food and clean water and facing rampant disease.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign has killed or injured nearly 18,000 civilians, a quarter of whom are women and children, as of last month, according to the Yemen Data Project.
Trump said the U.S. has provided limited support to the Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence sharing, logistics support, and, until recently, in-flight refueling of non-U.S. aircraft.
"This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," he said in issuing the veto.
Lee has long called for the end of U.S. involvement in the war, saying in a speech last year that continuing to support the Saudis, especially in light of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is "bad diplomacy."
The U.S. serving as a "co-belligerent" by supporting Saudi Arabia in a civil war that most Americans know nothing about and would not consider a clear and present threat.
"We do have to remember as a country that one of our most sacred duties as a government involves a decision of whether or not to go to war," Lee said. When we’re putting U.S. treasure, and more importantly U.S. blood on the line, and we’re putting the name of the United States on the line and potentially the lives of a whole lot of people in our own country and abroad on the line, that’s sacred."
Trump said there are no U.S. military personnel in Yemen commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi‑led coalition.
The U.S. has a duty to protect the more than 80,000 Americans who live in coalition countries that have been subject to Houthi attacks from Yemen, according to the president. Houthis, supported by Iran, have used missiles, armed drones and explosive boats to attack civilian and military targets, including areas frequented by Americans.
The war, Trump said, represents a "cheap" and inexpensive way for Iran to cause trouble for the U.S. and its ally, Saudi Arabia.
Contributing: Art Raymond