Congress poised to put Trump in veto bind

President Trump has not issued a veto since taking office more than two years ago, but that may soon change.

The House will move a step closer to a major confrontation with Trump by voting as soon as Wednesday on a resolution that would cut off U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in neighboring Yemen.

{mosads}The measure is expected to easily pass the chamber controlled by Democrats. After that, it will move to the GOP-led Senate, where is it also expected to have enough votes.

Once the resolution reaches his desk, Trump will be faced with the decision of whether to follow through on a White House-issued veto threat for a resolution his administration characterized as “flawed.”

“I also am hopeful the president may sign it. I know it’s uphill still,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the lead House sponsor, told The Hill in a phone interview. “You can’t be for withdrawal in Afghanistan and withdrawal in Syria and then say we need to escalate the war in Yemen. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Khanna downplayed the potential of confronting Trump with his first veto, saying, “I don’t want to politicize the issue.”

“The issue is not to score points against the administration or make this a Democratic or Republican issue,” he added. “The issue is: What can the United States do to avert a famine that could affect 14 million people?”

The resolution would direct the president to withdraw U.S. military forces in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda or associated forces.

The United States has been providing logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Previously, the U.S. military also provided aerial refueling to coalition jets, but the administration suspended that support in November.

The war powers resolution is coming to the House floor at a time when congressional fury over Saudi Arabia — and the administration’s continued support for the kingdom — is reaching a boiling point, much like it did in 2018.

Lawmakers’ anger reached a fever pitch last year after the slaying of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

During the height of the ire, the Senate passed a Yemen war powers resolution similar to the one now being considered in the House, with seven Republicans siding with Democrats. The measure did not advance in the House, which was controlled by the GOP at the time.

{mossecondads}Bipartisan anger started bubbling up again after Trump declined to adhere to a congressionally mandated deadline Friday to report on whether Saudi leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is responsible for Khashoggi’s killing and should be sanctioned.

On the day of the deadline, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry warned on Twitter that “our leadership is a red line.”

“We warn against any attempt to link Khashoggi’s crime to our leadership,” the ministry added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week responded to congressional critics who said the lack of adherence to the deadline shows the administration is helping cover up a crime, with Pompeo saying that’s “flat-out wrong.”

“America has taken more action in response to the tragic murder of Jamal Khashoggi and will continue to take more action, continue our investigation,” he told reporters traveling with him in Budapest. “We are working diligently on that. The president has been very clear, couldn’t have been more clear, as we get additional information we’ll continue to hold all of those responsible accountable.”

But Congress is fuming about being ignored and will have its first chance to voice its displeasure with the House vote.

“The slaughter and the starvation and the water and all the things that are going on in Yemen that are atrocious, coupled with Khashoggi and his murder, bring all of this to the fore,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) said at a House Rules Committee hearing on the Yemen resolution. “It’s hard to feel any affection or some obligation to a regime that does that kind of stuff.”

The White House on Monday issued a statement saying Trump’s “senior advisors would recommend he veto the joint resolution” if it reaches his desk.

The statement of administration policy argued the resolution has an “erroneous premise” because U.S. forces are not directly engaged in combat.

“Because the president has directed United States forces to support the Saudi-led coalition under his constitutional powers, the joint resolution would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent it seeks to override the president’s determination as Commander in Chief,” the White House said.

The administration further argued that the measure would “harm bilateral relationships” by defining hostilities as including “defense cooperation” such as aerial refueling.

“Our continued cooperation with regional partner nations allows the United States to support diplomatic negotiations to end the conflict, promote humanitarian access, mitigate civilian casualties, enhance efforts to recover United States hostages in Yemen and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States,” the White House added.

It’s an argument that has found sympathy from House Republicans, who have shown no sign of supporting the war powers resolution even as they express frustration at Trump’s response to the Khashoggi killing.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said he was “deeply troubled” by the administration ignoring the sanctions deadline but later caracterized the resolution as a misuse of the War Powers Act.

“U.S. Armed Forces are not engaged in hostilities against Houthi forces in Yemen,” he said. “This resolution stretches the definition of hostilities to cover non-U.S. military operations by other countries.”

McCaul said he and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) sent a “very strongly” worded statement to the administration Sunday about the lack of a sanctions report on Khashoggi, but that “it has really nothing to do with Yemen.”

House Democrats will not need Republican support to send the resolution to the Senate and are charging forward, with supporters arguing the resolution is a long overdue chance for Congress to reassert its authority on war and force the Saudis to negotiate peace in Yemen.

“It’s great to see the House of Representatives finally taking decisive action to end the war in Yemen,” Khanna said. “It sends an incredible message. The United States Congress has never in our history passed a War Powers resolution, since 1973. Never happened.”

Tags Donald Trump Ed Perlmutter Eliot Engel Michael McCaul Mike Pompeo Ro Khanna

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