- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

Defying President Trump, the House voted Thursday to demand an end to the U.S. military role in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, in what backers said was a belated effort to assert Congress’s role in deciding where and when American forces are committed to battle.

The 247-175 vote — including 16 House Republicans — flexes Congress’s authority under the 1973 War Powers Resolution to order the president to withdraw from hostilities that Capitol Hill has not approved. For good measure, it was also seen as a slap at Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coalition that the U.S. is assisting, but which has fallen out of favor with Congress after its government was implicated in the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi dissident journalist killed in October.

The resolution, which Mr. Trump’s aides say he will veto, directs the president to remove U.S. forces from “hostilities” in Yemen, other than operations targeting remaining al Qaeda units there. The United Nations and humanitarian groups say the Yemeni civil war has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, including a new surge in cholera cases in recent weeks.

What the House vote means in reality, though, is heatedly debated.

The White House says it has already stopped refueling assistance to the Saudi coalition, and at this point is only providing logistical and intelligence support in an effort to limit collateral civilian casualties from Saudi coalition strikes.

Those activities don’t constitute “hostilities,” the White House argues, but are instead authorized by licenses issued under the Arms Export Control Act and other powers of the Pentagon and the president.

The resolution, written by Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, passed the Senate last month on a 54-46 vote. Both the House and Senate votes, however, fell well short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a presidential veto.

The civil war has been raging for four years in Yemen, an impoverished nation of nearly 30 million people at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. A Saudi-backed government is battling the Houthi rebel movement, backed by Iran. The Obama administration committed the U.S. to helping the Saudi coalition, which was widely seen as a personal project pushed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Democrats say it was time to end the involvement — and insisted their move wasn’t a slap at Mr. Trump.

“No blank checks anymore. No blank checks to say the administrations can run wars without the approval of Congress,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel. “I would be doing this no matter who the president of the United States is.”

The New York Democrat brushed aside GOP complaints that the resolution was a victory for Iran, saying Tehran’s influence in the region has actually been enhanced by the brutality of the Saudi-led war effort and the stalemated war.

“The longer this conflict rages, the better it is for Iran,” Mr. Engel said.

But Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, said Thursday’s vote would be seen around the world as a win for Iran and its Houthi allies in Yemen. He said when the House held a similar debate earlier this year, Iran’s allies touted fading U.S. support as a victory for their side.

Republicans tried to attach to the legislation a statement opposing the anti-Israel “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, but Democrats beat back the amendment.

“This is about politics. This is about trying to drive a wedge into this caucus where it does not belong,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide