The House voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, delivering a rebuke of President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election 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 OmarPentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE (D-Minn.) that Republicans have pounced on.
Rep. David KustoffDavid Frank KustoffREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Lobbying world Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid 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 EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department 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 & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly 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 HoyerOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage House Democrats introduce B stand-alone bill for Israel's Iron Dome Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote 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 McCaulHouse passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims McCaul pressures State to formalize ties to outside evacuation groups Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (R-Texas) said on the House floor.
At the same time the House was debating the Yemen resolution, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRepublican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability 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 MurphySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Tell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' Sunday shows preview: Bombing in Kabul delivers blow to evacuation effort; US orders strikes on ISIS-K 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.”