House ignores Trump veto threat, approves bill ending US support for Yemen war

The House passed a resolution Thursday to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, sending it to President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE’s desk and likely forcing him to issue the second veto of his presidency.

The resolution passed 247-175, with 16 Republicans siding with Democrats. One Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash splits with Republicans, votes to authorize subpoena for Kellyanne Conway The Hill's 12:30 Report: Anticipation high ahead of first debate House panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony MORE (Mich.), voted present.

Thursday's vote was the first time since the War Powers Act was passed in 1973 that both chambers of Congress passed a resolution using that law and was the culmination of a years-long effort propelled in recent months by lawmakers’ fury at Saudi Arabia over the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The resolution, which would require Trump to withdraw U.S. military forces in or “affecting” Yemen unless they are fighting al Qaeda, gained considerable momentum after Khashoggi’s killing last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval Sanders unveils student debt plan amid rivalry with Warren MORE (D-Calif.), the measure's chief House sponsor, said that his motivation for the bill was "very simple." 

"I don’t want to see 14 million Yemenis starve to death,” he said.

Khanna told reporters after the vote he continues to hold out hope Trump will sign the measure, given some of his top allies, such as Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to appear at fundraiser for Jim Jordan: report GOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall MORE (N.C.), were among the Republicans who supported it. Supporters will send a bipartisan letter to Trump asking to talk to him about the issue, Khanna added.

The White House has threatened to veto the resolution, saying in a statement that it raises “serious constitutional concerns” and is based on an “erroneous premise.”

Opponents of the measure argue it is unnecessary since the Trump administration suspended the U.S. military’s aerial refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in November. They further argue it would embolden Iran.

“I hope everyone who cares about the people of Yemen understands that the legislation, in the past, did not remotely benefit them. Indeed, it will work to their detriment,” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2 US service members killed in Afghanistan after Pompeo visit The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? State Department need not be at odds with itself on Republic of Cyprus policy MORE told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

Passage of the bill amounts to a legislative one-two punch for Trump, coming just weeks after he was forced to issue the first veto of his presidency on a resolution that would have blocked his national emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border.

A handful of lawmakers have been sounding the alarm for years about Riyadh’s behavior in the four-year-old civil war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Coalition airstrikes have been blamed for thousands of civilian deaths, as well as exacerbating a cholera epidemic and the risk of famine. The United States supports the coalition with logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales.

The Senate first passed the resolution in December in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s death, but the GOP-controlled House did not take it up.

When Democrats took back control of the House in January, they made the Yemen resolution a priority and passed it in February. But Republicans successfully added an amendment denouncing anti-Semitism, a response to a separate controversy over comments from Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThe four House Democrats who voted against the border funding bill Ocasio-Cortez: It was easier to get elected to Congress than pay off student loan debt Progressive group endorses three House freshmen MORE (D-Minn.).

The anti-Semitism language slowed the bill when it came back to the Senate after the parliamentarian ruled it was no longer privileged, the mechanism that allowed supporters to force a vote and pass it with a simple majority. That meant senators had to reintroduce a clean version of the bill, which passed 54-46 and went back to the House for Thursday’s vote.

Fearful of killing the resolution forever by forcing it to go back to the Senate yet again, Democrats rejected a Republican amendment opposing the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement Thursday in a 194-228 vote. One Republican, Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTop Democrats demand State Department's legal analysis on potential Iran military action Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval MORE (Fla.), voted present.

“I strongly condemn the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, economic warfare against the state of Israel, and there is no one in this chamber, no one, who would question my commitment to opposing BDS or rejecting anti-Semitism or supporting our ally Israel,” said Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchTop Democrats demand State Department's legal analysis on potential Iran military action Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Fla.), who is Jewish. “But I also strongly reject ... I strongly reject what my colleagues are doing here today. … This is not a [motion] about BDS. We’ve seen this play out before the last time this resolution came up.”

The Yemen resolution passed neither the House nor the Senate with enough support to override Trump’s likely veto.

Even so, supporters of the resolution are still hailing Thursday’s passage as a significant victory that sends a strong message to Saudi Arabia that its behavior is unacceptable, as well as a historic moment for Congress asserting its war-making authority.

“Today’s vote ushers in a new era in which Congress reclaims its power over war in order to advance the cause of peace,” Kate Gould, legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said in an email. “Rep. Ro Khanna introduced his first Yemen war powers resolution in the last Congress, and now five versions of that same legislation later, Congress is finally flexing its war powers muscle to lift up the plight of millions of Yemeni men, women and children who are on the brink of starving to death.”

— This report was updated at 1:08 p.m.