Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war

Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war
© Getty Images

A group of House Democrats wants to force a vote to withdraw U.S. forces from the civil war in Yemen, the lawmakers announced on Thursday.

They said that they will introduce a so-called privileged resolution this month if the situation in the war-battered country does not improve that would withdraw the U.S. military from helping the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Yemeni rebels.

“We are preparing to introduce a new, privileged resolution in September invoking the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from engaging in the Saudi-led coalition’s conflict with the Houthis should additional escalations continue and progress fail to be made towards a peace agreement,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“There has been no specific authorization for the U.S. Armed Forces to engage in hostilities with respect to the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen. We must take action to end U.S. participation in this catastrophic war in Yemen and work to bring about a peaceful conclusion to this conflict.”

The effort is being led by Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Senate Armed Services chair eyes Russia, China threats | Pushes Trump not to cut defense budget | Mattis says US looking for more Khashoggi evidence Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives Dems rally for Green New Deal MORE (D-Calif.), who previously led the charge for a House-passed nonbinding resolution that called U.S. military involvement in the war unauthorized.

The statement was co-signed by Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTrump ultimatum sparks fears of new arms race Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives Armed Services chairmen meet with Trump on potential cuts to Defense MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanSetting the record straight about No Labels Progressive rep says she’s ‘very disappointed' by Barbara Lee’s loss in bid for Dem caucus chair For suffering animals, a new audit of the USDA can’t happen soon enough MORE (D-Wis.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyPelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion Incoming Michigan Dem will not back Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty MORE (Ill.), Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard says being Saudi Arabia's 'bitch' is not 'America First' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Gabbard considering 2020 run: report MORE (Hawaii), Michael CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoMassachusetts New Members 2019 House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems MORE (Mass.), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeJohn Kelly’s exit raises concerns about White House future GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war MORE (N.Y.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBlack Caucus chairman pushes back against committee term limits Progressive rep says she’s ‘very disappointed' by Barbara Lee’s loss in bid for Dem caucus chair House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE (Calif.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Caucus picks Castro as its next chair Cicilline bows out of assistant leader race, paving path for Lujan Pelosi vows to expand leadership team MORE (N.Y.).

The lawmakers announced their plans on the same day the United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen is convening the first formal peace talks in the war in two years.

Yemen’s civil war has raged since 2015, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa. Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran’s link to rebels near its border, intervened on behalf of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

The United States does not actively fight in the war, but it supports the coalition with aerial refueling, intelligence sharing and billions of dollars in weapons sales.

U.S. lawmakers’ patience with the Saudi coalition has been wearing increasingly thin as the civilian death toll mounts. The United Nations pegs the civilian death toll at 6,660 as of Aug. 23, a number that is largely blamed on coalition air strikes.

“It’s critical that the United States not choose sides in this war, and any American involvement can and must be debated transparently,” the Democrats said Thursday. “For every Yemeni civilian killed in an airstrike, countless more perish from hunger and disease triggered and sustained by the war. The Saudi-led coalition, and all parties involved, must be held accountable for their actions contributing to this ongoing crisis.”

A United Nations report last month said all parties in the conflict may be responsible for war crimes.

Last month, the coalition struck a school bus, killing 40 children. The incident prompted the rare admission from the coalition that the strike was “unjustified.”

The State Department said this week that Saudi Arabia’s admission was an "important first step toward full transparency and accountability" while reiterating it “fully supports” U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths's efforts to end the war.

As part of the annual defense policy bill signed into law last month, Congress is requiring the administration to certify by Sept. 12 that Saudi and Emirati behavior is helping to end the war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and protect civilians. If the administration cannot make the certification, it must stop refueling coalition aircraft.

The law allows for a national security waiver to keep refueling aircraft if the certification can’t be made, but the administration still has to submit an unclassified justification to Congress if it grants the waiver.

“As the U.N. attempts to broker a ceasefire, it is imperative that the Saudi-led coalition halt fresh hostilities and planned offensives, particularly in and around the vital port city of Hodeidah,” the Democrats said in their statement Thursday. “We are closely monitoring the actions of the Saudi-led coalition and the White House during these crucial peace negotiations.”