Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers are searching for an “appropriate” response to the slaying of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi but warned against a “complete fracture” with Saudi Arabia, The Hill reports.
“No response is certainly not appropriate. Looking the other way is not appropriate but a complete fracture with Saudi Arabia in my view is not in our best interest long term,” McConnell said at a Wall Street Journal event on Monday night, when asked if Senate Republicans wanted to “punish” the country.
Khashoggi’s death has strained an already tense U.S.-Saudi relationship on Capitol Hill, where senators have described it as being at a low point, The Hill adds.
McConnell acknowledged that senators have had several talks with the White House about what to do but were “struggling” to find the “appropriate response,” noting that Saudi Arabia was a great ally with the United States in checking the influence of Iran in the region.
“For us to push the Saudis entirely away from us seems to me not in the best interest of the United States,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s comments come as senators are heading toward a floor fight over how the Senate should respond to Khashoggi’s killing. Senators kicked a resolution to the full Senate that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen; McConnell was one of 37 Republican senators who voted against advancing the resolution, The Hill adds.
Some Republicans say they voted to advance the resolution because of the message it sent to Saudi Arabia, instead of the substance of the bill. They are weighing making changes to the resolution, or trying to switch it out entirely for a different proposal, if senators formally agree to begin debate on the bill.
Meanwhile, CIA Director Gina Haspel is expected to brief a group of senators on Tuesday morning after her absence at last week’s briefing frustrated and antagonized some senators. McConnell added on Monday that senators have “been talking” about what is the best course of action but hadn’t yet come to a decision.