The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a war powers resolution that seeks to end American military support for the Saudi- led coalition in Yemen.
The 248-177 vote was a major victory for Congressman Ro Khanna, who first introduced a version of the resolution in September of 2017.
The matter will now be taken into consideration by the Senate, which passed the same resolution introduced there by Bernie Sanders in a historic vote in December, marking the first time in American history the Senate evoked the war powers act in an effort to end military participation in an unauthorized war.
The U.S. has played a key role in supporting the Saudi-coalition, which intervened in the conflict in an effort to oust Houthi rebels from power and restore the country’s previous government.
The coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen has been condemned by the U.N. for indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, resulting in possible war crimes. In addition to facing mass-starvation, the Yemeni people have been subject to a massive cholera outbreak resulting from the coalition bombing of water treatment infrastructure.
1. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Wardah Fadel 2.1 kg 4 months. Wardah's parents, resident in Hodeidah, came to Sanaa to hospitalize her. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
2. Yemen, midway Sana'a to Hodeidah, 13 November 2018. WFP Executive Director David Beasley visiting Yemen. Here he is having a tea in the mountains midway Sana'a to Hodeidah. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
3. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
4. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Hesham Ali Abdullah (left) and his son Ali Yakya Ali (5) who is affected by severe acute malnutrition edematous which causes an excessive amount of water fluid in the tissues. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
5. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Yemeni children waiting for screening at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital where WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
6. Yemen, Sana'a, 10 November 2018. A kid in old city Sanaa. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
Democrats speaking in favor of the resolution argued that support for the coalition makes the U.S. complicit in what the U.N. has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Khanna had also charged his colleagues with “abdicating” their Constitutional responsibility to make decisions on war and peace, allowing the president to unilaterally decide when and where America goes to war.
While the Senate ultimately passed Sanders’ twin resolution, then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan repeatedly refused to allow a vote on Khanna’s resolution in the House during the previous session, attaching clauses “de-privileging” it to unrelated, popular bills including one about wolf hunting and one about agriculture.
“They said if you wanted to hunt wolves – if you wanted to be for the hunting of wolves – then vote yes. And at the same time, you’re going to de-privilege this resolution,” Khanna told reporters following the move.
“This is why people hate Congress … We’ve never seen those kinds of shenanigans with a war powers resolution,” he added in an interview with Democracy Now.
With my resolution passing the House, we are closer than ever to ending our complicity in this humanitarian catastrophe. And with @BernieSanders‘ leadership, a War Powers Resolution will pass through both chambers of Congress for the first time in history.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) February 13, 2019
But after Democrats took control of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her support for the resolution, opening the door for Wednesday’s vote.
“The conflict in Yemen has gone on for far too long, leaving a permanent stain on the conscience of the world,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Congress has the responsibility to provide oversight of America’s use of military force and support to international conflicts. Chairman Adam Smith and Congressman Ro Khanna are to be commended for their leadership in introducing this resolution.”
Sanders’ resolution was initially introduced in February of 2018 and was defeated in a 55-44 vote in March of that year.
But the Senator told CBS in December that there was renewed support for the legislation after the assassination of Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi put a political spotlight on the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Though the resolution passed by the House on Wednesday is largely the same as the one passed by the Senate, the House added two additional amendments to it.
The first amendment, introduced by Rep. Ken Buck – an original co-sponsor of the resolution – explicitly makes an exception for intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the coalition on the grounds that U.S. intel can help reduce civilian casualties.
The other amendment, introduced by Rep. David Kustoff, is an unrelated proclamation declaring the body’s unwavering opposition to anti-Semitism. The amendment also denounces the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at pressuring Israel to better respect Palestinian human rights.
Several Republicans who rose in opposition to the resolution before the vote argued that the resolution is moot, citing testimony from former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other Pentagon officials. who have argued that U.S. military support for the coalition doesn’t constitute “hostilities.”
The U.S. has supplied billions of dollars in high-tech weaponry that Saudi Arabia has used in the conflict and U.S. personnel have worked closely with the Saudis to assist in training, intelligence sharing, and targeting.
Until November, American warplanes also provided aerial refueling to coalition bombers, allowing them to stay in the air for longer and strike more targets.
An amendment that was included in the final text of the Senate resolution introduced by Republican Senator Todd Young defines “hostilities” to include refueling aircraft, but does not define the term more broadly.
Though the resolution passed the Senate in December, there’s no guarantee it will again in the new session and President Donald Trump would have to sign the bill into law if it does. While Trump and other members of his administration have previously expressed opposition to the resolution, it could be a politically costly veto.
More on the Subject
While partisan polarization in Congress has reached the highest levels in American history, an unlikely bipartisan alliance on foreign policy is beginning to take shape and have an impact on Capitol Hill.
In recent years, progressive Democratic lawmakers and libertarian-leaning conservatives have begun to team up in an effort to reassert the role of Congress in foreign policy and advocate restraint in matters of war and peace.
Republican representatives like Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Ken Buck and Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna are amongst those seeking to play a greater role in shaping U.S. foreign policy from the legislature.