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House lawmakers delay decision on Saudi Arabia pending investigation

House leadership from both parties emerged Thursday from a briefing on Saudi Arabia without committing to take legislative action to punish the kingdom for killing U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with both sides saying they will wait for the results of an ongoing investigation.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise labels Capitol rioting 'domestic terrorism' Tensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE (R-La.) cited an “ongoing investigation” into Khashoggi’s death when asked whether leadership would support a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing.

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Asked about moving something this year on the Yemeni civil war, where the United States supports a Saudi-led military coalition, he said the briefing “maybe addresses some of the questions” that were driving lawmaker concern about the war.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Pelosi suggests criminal charges for any lawmaker who helped with Capitol riot Pelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate MORE (D-Calif.), who is expected to be Speaker in the next Congress, noted there was enough bipartisan support to act on Yemen this year, but added “we’ll see how events proceed” when asked whether she will bring it up for a vote next year.

House Republicans have blocked lawmakers from forcing a vote for the remainder of the year on legislative attempts to cut off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's campaign in Yemen. 

Pelosi did say she’d support sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but said the investigation into Khashoggi’s death needs to conclude first.

“Our decisions are evidenced based,” she said.

The reaction stood in stark contrast to the Senate, which later Thursday is expected to pass a resolution widely seen as a rebuke to the Saudis and President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE that aims to cut off U.S. support for the Saudis in Yemen’s civil war.

The Senate measure gained considerable momentum after senators left a briefing by Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon watchdog to probe extremism in US military | FBI chief warns of 'online chatter' ahead of inauguration | House conservative bloc opposes Austin waiver Conservative caucus opposes waiver for Biden's Pentagon pick Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoOn The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' MORE furious at the administration’s handling of the Yemen war and the Khashoggi killing.

Senators have also discussed a resolution naming Crown Prince Mohammed responsible for the Khashoggi killing. They are further hoping to prepare a bill to bring up next year that would mandate sanctions on anyone, including anyone in the royal family, responsible for the death and to stop arms sales to the Saudis, among other provisions.

But after their own briefing with Mattis and Pompeo on Thursday, House lawmakers appeared reluctant to speed into action.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelState Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment 2020: A year in photos MORE (D-N.Y.), who is expected to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reaffirmed his plan to hold hearings that “leave no stone unturned” on U.S.-Saudi relations and said he secured a commitment from Pompeo to testify early next year.

But asked about actions the Senate is prepared to take, such as halting arms sale, Engel reiterated his plan for hearings. And on whether Crown Prince Mohammed should be sanctioned, he said he cannot discuss classified information.

“But I do think that this horrific killing of a journalist is not simply something where we can look the other way,” he continued.

“I think that things are still coming out about in terms of how it was done and who did it,” he added later. “Yes, they have to be held responsible.”

Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanBottom line 150 House Democrats support Biden push to reenter Iran nuclear deal Democrats elect Meeks as first Black Foreign Affairs chairman MORE (D-Calif.), a Foreign Affairs Committee member, said he “might very well support” the Senate’s Yemen resolution, but wouldn’t commit until there is specific legislation pending in the House.

He also said Thursday’s developments in Yemen’s peace talks would have to factor in. Yemen’s warring parties, which have been meeting in Sweden in United Nations–mediated talks, have agreed to a ceasefire in the key port city of Hodeidah.

“Whether a change in our Yemen policy is in the interest of the people of Yemen or the people of the United States is something Democrats will certainly analyze,” he added. “Whatever our analysis was yesterday needs to be redone tomorrow in light of what happened in Sweden today.”

Republican Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerUpton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? Kinzinger says he is 'in total peace' after impeachment vote MORE (Ill.) said he’d support calling the Khashoggi “murder out for what it is” and sanctioning individuals involved, but that sanctions decisions should be left to the administration because it has “way more information at their fingertips” than Congress.

“I think recognizing that even if we don’t have definitive proof that the crown prince ordered it, we’re pretty darn sure he did, and I think we need to be clear about that,” he said.

He also cautioned against taking step that would alter U.S.-Saudi relations over the issue. 

“But then to say we’re not going to sell weapons or we’re going to in essence completely realign our alliance with Saudi Arabia when the alternative then is empowering Iran,” he added, “would be the wrong answer.”