House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen

The House voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, delivering a rebuke of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s policy and bringing closer the prospect of the first veto of his tenure.

Just before the vote, the House also unanimously approved an amendment condemning anti-Semitism, wrapping the Saudi issue into brewing controversy over recent remarks from Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar fires back at Trump: 'You can't #MuslimBan us from Congress' GOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Trump criticizes trio of Fox News anchors: 'They should be working' at CNN MORE (D-Minn.) that Republicans have pounced on.

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Rep. David KustoffDavid Frank KustoffIt's time to defund the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen Progressives come to Omar's defense Pelosi seeks to tamp down anti-Semitism controversy MORE (R-Tenn.) offered the amendment, saying it is in the national security interest of the U.S. to combat anti-Semitism. The amendment made no mention of Omar, but Kustoff alluded to the controversy in a statement after the vote.

“This horrific anti-Semitic tone being taken by some members of Congress must come to an end,” he said. “The language I offered affirms the United States’ interest in combating anti-Semitism at home and abroad, something my colleagues on both sides of the aisle should and must support.”

Omar has apologized for her tweet from Sunday in which she suggested lawmakers’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” widely criticized as invoking an anti-Semitic trope. Trump called for her to resign, to which she responded Wednesday that he has “trafficked in hate [his] whole life.”

The amendment was provided as part of a procedural move known as a motion to recommit, which is typically offered by the minority party to make a statement but which rarely passes. The motion, though, was approved after House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight MORE (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, stood up in support of it.

While the vote on the anti-Semitism amendment threatened to overshadow the broader vote on U.S. backing for the Saudis, supporters hailed passage of the war powers resolution as a decisive step.

“Today is historic,” Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi-led war in Yemen Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (D-Calif.), the resolution’s chief House sponsor, said in a statement after the vote. “I’m encouraged by the direction people are pushing our party to take on foreign policy, promoting restraint and human rights and with the sense they want Congress to play a much larger role.”

The House voted 248-177 to end U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It was the first time the lower chamber has successfully passed a War Powers Act resolution since the law was enacted in 1973.

With 18 Republicans joining with Democrats on Wednesday, the vote was not lopsided enough to overcome a potential veto. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure within 30 days and send it to Trump’s desk for a possible signature.

Even if Trump vetoes the resolution as threatened, supporters have said getting it through both chambers of Congress would send a strong message to Saudi Arabia and could spur more serious negotiations to end the war in Yemen.

The vote also brings to a head a years-long effort to curtail U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, efforts that were invigorated by lawmakers’ outrage at the Saudis’ killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October and the Trump administration’s tepid response.

“The more the president tries to sweep this heinous incident under the rug, the more incumbent upon Congress it is to act,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerLawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay Chances of passing Dem budget are '50-50,' says chairman Dems unite against Trump's budget  — but challenges coming MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday.

Yemen’s civil war started in 2015 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran the Yemeni capital. Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran’s support for a group in a neighboring country, organized a military coalition and intervened.

The U.S. military supports the coalition with logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales. Previously, the United States also provided aerial refueling to coalition jets, but the administration suspended that support in November.

A contingent of U.S. lawmakers had long sought to end that support because Saudi airstrikes have been blamed for the majority of civilian deaths in the war, along with causing a cholera epidemic and bringing millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine.

Their efforts gained a considerable boost last year as lawmakers scrambled to punish Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s slaying at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Amid the fury last year, the Senate passed a resolution similar to the one that passed the House on Wednesday to withdraw U.S. military support in Yemen. But the measure did not advance in the House, which was controlled by the GOP at the time.

The Trump administration has levied sanctions on some Saudi officials over the Khashoggi killing, but lawmakers have demanded stronger action. Trump, though, has resisted anything that could affect the U.S.-Saudi alliance.

The Trump administration has made Saudi Arabia — and by extension the Yemeni civil war — central to its strategy to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East. In line with that, opponents of the Yemen resolution argue it would embolden Tehran.

“Are we defending Iran and the Houthis here today?” Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  GOP lawmakers urge State Dept. to label cartels as terrorist organizations MORE (R-Texas) said on the House floor.

At the same time the House was debating the Yemen resolution, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo open to future Senate run: 'The Lord will get me to the right place' Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump condemns 'horrible' New Zealand mosque shootings MORE was in Poland preparing to host an international conference on the Middle East expected to focus largely on Iran, with Saudi Arabia being one of about 60 participants.

In its veto threat this week, the White House did not mention Iran. The statement of administration policy released Monday night argued the resolution is “flawed” because U.S. troops are not directly engaged in combat in Yemen.

The White House also warned the bill would “harm bilateral relationships” by defining hostilities as including “defense cooperation” such as aerial refueling.

When the similar resolution passed the Senate in December, seven Republicans sided with Democrats to approve the measure. Democrats have since lost two seats, but supporters say last year’s vote margin was large enough to ensure it will pass a second time.

As such, supporters on Wednesday were celebrating nearing the finish line.

“This is a big deal,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds The Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray Overnight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget MORE (D-Conn.), a co-sponsor of the Senate resolution, said in a statement. “Momentum in Congress is building for the United States to stop supporting the Saudis’ war in Yemen. The Senate will soon vote on this resolution for a second time, and the president will have to decide if he wants the United States military to continue to aid the Saudi-led coalition in killing thousands of civilians and blocking humanitarian aid in Yemen, or if he wants to side with the overwhelming number of people in this country who want us to get out. This should not be complicated.”