House votes on U.S. involvement in Yemen
The House adopted a measure on Monday to call for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen as a compromise to a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had sought a vote on a measure to stop the U.S. military’s participation.
The resolution, which passed 366-30 with one lawmaker, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), voting “present,” denounces the targeting of civilian populations in Yemen and calls on all parties involved to “increase efforts to adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent civilian casualties and increase humanitarian access.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) had initially led a bipartisan effort with Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) to push a vote on a resolution to end the U.S. military’s involvement in the war against the Houthis in Yemen.
The compromise resolution negotiated with leadership of both parties, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Rules Committee does not go nearly as far.
Apart from calling for an end to the violence in Yemen and encouraging other governments to provide humanitarian resources, the resolution notes that Congress has not enacted specific legislation allowing the use of military force against entities in the Yemen conflict that aren’t already subject to congressional authorizations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This resolution makes abundantly clear that we cannot be assisting the Saudi regime in any of its fight with the Houthi regime. And we have to limit our involvement in Yemen to take on al-Qaeda and to take on the terrorists that threaten the United States,” Khanna said during House floor debate.
The Houthis took over Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2015 and ousted the internationally recognized government. Since then, the Saudi-backed military forces in support of the government have been unable to push out the Houthis.
As acknowledged in Khanna’s resolution, the U.S. has engaged in intelligence cooperation and provided assistance to Saudi-led multinational coalition planes conducting bombings against the Houthi rebel movement. The U.S. is also providing humanitarian aid to victims of the war.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) stressed that the U.S. military is only providing assistance to Yemen and is not actively engaged in fighting.
“Though we provide logistics to our Saudi partners in the region, United States forces are not conducting hostilities against Houthi forces in Yemen,” Royce said.
Khanna’s resolution cites an estimate from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that at least 10,000 Yemeni civilians have died in the war over the last two years.
The House had previously considered measures regarding the U.S. involvement in Yemen during debate on the annual defense policy bill earlier this year.
The House adopted an amendment from Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) to the defense policy legislation in July that would prohibit the use of funds to deploy members of the armed forces to participate in Yemen’s civil war. Another amendment from Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) would block the use of funds for military operations in Yemen outside the jurisdiction of the 2001 authorization of military force for the war in Afghanistan.
Both amendments were adopted by voice vote.
Lawmakers in both parties have pushed for revising the authorizations of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq that have since expanded to other conflicts over the past nearly two decades.
Under the War Powers Resolution, Congress can direct U.S. military forces to be removed from a country if there is not an official declaration of war.
In 2015, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Jones pushed a vote on a resolution to withdraw troops abroad fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) given the lack of a formal congressional authorization for military action against the terrorist group.
But a bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject the resolution, warning that abruptly moving to withdraw troops amid escalating violence in the region would undermine U.S. military strategy.