by Rebecca Kheel · February 13, 2019
The House on Wednesday easily passed a bill that would require President Trump to withdraw U.S. military support from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.
In a 248-177 vote that largely fell along party lines, the House sent the war powers resolution to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass and confront Trump with the possibility of issuing the first veto of his presidency.
“The only patriotic thing, if you care about our troops, if you care about American interests, if you care about the outrage that the Saudis are inflicting on Americans and on the world, then the only patriotic thing to do is to vote for this resolution,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the resolution’s chief House sponsor, said ahead of the vote.
The resolution that the House passed would direct the president to withdraw U.S. military forces in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda or associated forces.
The United States has been providing logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Previously, the U.S. military also provided aerial refueling to coalition jets, but the administration suspended that support in November.
The vote comes at a time when Congress’ anger at Saudi Arabia over last year’s killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi is being reignited.
The Trump administration declined to follow a congressionally mandated deadline Friday to report on whether Saudi leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is responsible for Khashoggi’s slaying and should be sanctioned.
The Trump administration previously levied sanctions on some Saudi officials over the killing, but lawmakers have demanded stronger action. Trump, though, has resisted anything that could affect the U.S.-Saudi alliance.
Last year, searching for a way to punish the Saudis, the Senate passed a resolution similar to the one that passed the House on Wednesday to withdraw U.S. military support in Yemen. The measure did not advanced in the House, which was controlled by the GOP at the time.
But Democrats, upon taking control of the House, fulfilled their pledge to prioritize a vote on the war in Yemen, making it their first major foreign policy vote of the year.
In Wednesday’s votes, the House also approved 252-177 a Republican-offered amendment to the bill meant to ensure the United States can continue intelligence sharing with “any foreign country.”
The House also unanimously approved a GOP-offered amendment saying it is in the U.S. national security interest to combat anti-Semitism, which was offered amid unrelated controversy over a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that was condemned as anti-Semitic and for which she has since apologized.
The White House has issued a veto threat against the Yemen resolution. The statement of administration policy called the resolution “flawed” because U.S. forces are not directly involved in hostilities in Yemen.
The White House also warned the bill would “harm bilateral relationships” by defining hostilities as including “defense cooperation” such as aerial refueling.
“Our continued cooperation with regional partner nations allows the United States to support diplomatic negotiations to end the conflict, promote humanitarian access, mitigate civilian casualties, enhance efforts to recover United States hostages in Yemen and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States,” the statement said.
The Hill · by Rebecca Kheel · February 13, 2019