Lawmakers seek to limit US involvement in Yemen's civil war
Lawmakers in the House are looking to restrain U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in the Yemen civil war in an annual defense policy bill, so far filing at least nine amendments with that aim.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have grown increasingly frustrated with Saudi Arabia in its campaign against the Houthi rebels. The civilian death toll in the conflict has been rising, with most of the casualties blamed on Saudi airstrikes.
The United States supports the Saudi campaign with billions of dollars in arms sales, intelligence sharing and logistics such as air refueling. The New York Times also reported this month that Army Green Berets are at Saudi Arabia’s border helping find and destroy Houthi missile launchers.
Late last year, the House passed a nonbinding resolution that called U.S. military involvement in the war unauthorized.
Earlier this year, the Senate blocked a resolution that would have ended U.S. military support for the campaign, though the vote margin was narrower than expected.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who led the charge for the House’s resolution last year, has filed three amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act related to Yemen.
Khanna also introduced an amendment to limit U.S. support for the campaign during the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the bill last week, but it was defeated in a 19-42 vote.
One amendment Khanna offered this week would require the Pentagon to issue a declassified report on the civil war’s effect on the growth of Yemen’s branches of al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Another would prevent funding from being used to refuel non-U.S. military aircraft for missions targeting the Houthis.
The third would require an investigation into whether U.S. military personnel, intelligence operatives or coalition partners violated federal law, the laws of armed conflict or Pentagon policy while conducting operations in Yemen.
Khanna also signed on to an amendment from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on any mid-air refueling the U.S. military has done for any non-U.S. aircraft in anti-Houthi missions. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is also a co-sponsor.
Pocan also filed two amendments. One would require a report within 120 days on all activities conducted by members of the military and civilian Pentagon personnel that help Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Houthis.
Pocan’s other amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), bans precision guided munitions from being sent to Saudi Arabia until the United States “has withdrawn from all forms of participation” in the Yemen civil war that “are not specifically and statutorily authorized by Congress.”
Another amendment, from Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), would require the Pentagon to certify to Congress that Saudi Arabia is making a “good-faith effort” on diplomatic negotiations, is not blocking humanitarian aid, is not arming Salafi militias and is providing the United States plans and damage assessments on strikes in which the U.S. military refueled aircraft.
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) proposed an amendment that would prohibit funding from being used to participate in the civil war.
An amendment from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) would prohibit funding from being used to assist the Saudi campaign until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that Yemen’s Hodeida port is completely open to aid and the commercial flow of food, fuel and medicine.
The House Rules Committee is set to meet Monday and Tuesday to determine which amendments will get a floor vote, with the House expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act later in the week.