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 TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' 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 AmashHillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record 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) KhannaPelosi shoots down censure for Trump: 'If the goods are there you must impeach' Pelosi shoots down censure for Trump: 'If the goods are there you must impeach' Biggs, Khanna launch bipartisan War Powers Caucus 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 MeadowsFBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway FBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump 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 PompeoIs America headed toward war? Is America headed toward war? Polar bear spotted hundreds of miles south of normal hunting grounds 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 OmarGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record 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) GaetzAddressing climate change is a win for Republicans — why not embrace it? Ex-GOP lawmaker hits Kyle Kashuv's racist posts: 'These are the social media postings we see of a shooter' Ex-GOP lawmaker hits Kyle Kashuv's racist posts: 'These are the social media postings we see of a shooter' 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 DeutchDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Overnight Health Care: Democratic bill would require insurance to cover OTC birth control | House Dems vote to overturn ban on fetal tissue research | New rule aims to expand health choices for small businesses 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.