- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution that would block any U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

In a major move by the new House Democratic majority to challenge President Trump’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia, the resolution passed 248-177 and signaled a tangible challenge to the administration’s Middle East policy and response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Today is historic,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat and author of the measure.

“Passage of this resolution in the House sends a clear message to this Administration that Congress does not support the United States’ de facto support for the Saudi-led coalition in this conflict,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said in a statement.

The resolution effectively calls for the end of all U.S. support for the Saudis in the war with Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a conflict that observers say has produced massive civilian casualties, displaced 3 million Yemenis and sparked what the aid groups call the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

The measure invokes the War Powers Act, which would insert congressional oversight in the Yemen conflict and direct the president to withdraw U.S. forces affecting hostilities in Yemen within one month unless they are fighting al Qaeda or other recognized terror groups.

The inclusion of the War Powers Act has been a sticking point with Republicans who argue that it diminishes President Trump’s position as commander-in-chief.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, called the resolution an “ill-advised bill.”

“I am alarmed that we are abusing a privileged War Powers procedure to address questions where U.S. forces are not involved in combat,” he said.

But Democrats have argued the brutal, indiscriminate nature of the Saudi-led offensive was hurting U.S. interests and America’s reputation in the region and around the world.

“We cannot just give the coalition a blank check when so many innocent lives are being lost,” Rep. Eliot Engel, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

“And if the Administration won’t demand any sort of accountability from the Saudis and Emiratis, it’s time for Congress to act.”

Many supporters of the bill have contended that President Trump is likely to veto the legislation. Earlier this week, the administration threatened to block the measure, calling its premise “erroneous” and “flawed.”

The administration argued that “the joint resolution would harm bilateral relationships in the region, negatively affect our ability to prevent the spread of violent extremist organizations,” and explained that the president’s senior advisors would recommend a veto.

The legislation will now head to the Senate where a similar resolution passed in the final days of the previous Congress with a large bipartisan majority amid sharp criticism of de facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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