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 ScaliseDemocrats will push to retake vote on funding government after chaos on the floor Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump House GOP blast Pelosi for suggesting State of the Union delay 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week 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 John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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 MattisMacron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria Fox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump travels to Dover Air Force Base to meet with families of Americans killed in Syria Overnight Defense: Second Trump-Kim summit planned for next month | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking Afghanistan trip plans | Pentagon warns of climate threat to bases | Trump faces pressure to reconsider Syria exit Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation 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 EngelTrump's battle with Pelosi intensifies Overnight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy Dems zero in on Trump and Russia 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 ShermanBill Maher calls for impeachment of 'sick man' Trump: 'You have to go ahead and do it' Freshman House members: Calls for impeachment 'premature' Dems call freshman's impeachment remarks 'inappropriate' 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 KinzingerOn The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on 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.”