Hands off Yemen, Both Senate and House Vote To End US Support in War
“The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy.”
On April 4, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 247 to 175 on a resolution to end U.S. involvement for the war in Yemen. Unless President Trump issues a veto, the mandate instructs the U.S. to end its involvement in the war.
Sixteen Republicans joined a united Democrat front on the House Resolution, which passed in the Senate last month after seven Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The White House has said the resolution raises “serious constitutional concerns” due to the use of the 1973 War Powers Act to justify the bill, which enforces constitutional approval for military actions. The bill represents a major check to executive power, and President Trump is expected to veto it.
“The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy,” said Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
U.S. support for the campaign in Yemen attracted newfound controversy after the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence determined the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, almost certainly ordered the killing.
The Trump administration has maintained close ties to the Saudi royal despite the murder, with bin Salman allegedly claiming he has President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor “in his pocket.” President Trump has previously argued he would not rethink the U.S. relationship with the Saudi kingdom after Khashoggi’s assassination, because it would limit lucrative arms deals in the region.
Yemen has been ravaged since the conflict began in 2015, when the rebel Houthi faction took control of much of the country and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile. The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia view the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, and have sought to crush the movement to limit Iran’s influence in the region. The U.S., U.K. and France have provided logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi coalition, as well as selling it weapons.
Since beginning support for the Saudi coalition, U.S. manufactured weapons have been used to destroy schools, hospitals, and weddings, and the U.N. now refers to the war in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The U.N. says 80% of Yemen’s population is in need of humanitarian protection and 10 million Yemenis are nearly in famine.
The Senate first passed a resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen last December, but former House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to take up the resolution.
Republicans tried to disrupt the resolution by attaching a last-minute amendment condemning the boycott, divest, and sanction movement against Israel to the Yemen-resolution. Democratic leadership, including prominent pro-Israel Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, condemned the maneuver and prevented the bill from being tied from the controversial BDS movement.
Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed outrage at the Republican tactic, telling reporters, “The Republicans know if they offer an amendment to this bill, it defeats it, 22 million people are at risk. I think it’s unconscionable that they would play games with this.”
The deceptive tactic was similar to the final move former House Speaker Paul Ryan made as a public official, in which he snuck a resolution on ending US involvement in Yemen into a farm bill.
The House resolution would not prevent the billions in arms sales Washington is making with Riyadh, but another bill is currently working through the Senate that would. Even if President Trump vetoes the bills, the use of the War Powers Act represents a major rebuke to executive power and shifting views regarding the US-Saudi relationship.