House passes anti-Yemen war resolution

Calls for end to US military support

By CNN'S RYAN BROWNE, MANU RAJU, TED BARRETT AND ELIZA MACKINTOSH CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
Copyright 2019 CNN

The House adopted a resolution Wednesday calling for the end of any US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which was deemed the world's worst humanitarian crisis last year by the United Nations.

The measure passed 248-177, with one voting present.

The resolution directs the President to remove any US armed forces that are affecting the war with Yemen, with the exception of forces fighting Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, in less than 30 days after the resolution is enacted

It's expected at some point that the Senate will take up the resolution, but it's not clear when.

In a rare move, Democrats agreed to a procedural step sought by Republicans to add language to the resolution. The language, pushed by Republicans, sharply condemns anti-Semitism, and Republicans used a motion to recommit to get the language added. Typically, Democrats do not agree to Republican pushes to recommit a bill.

The resolution condemning anti-Semitism was in response to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose tweets suggesting US support of Israel is motivated by money inspired bipartisan backlash. Omar apologized for her tweet Monday but some Republicans -- including President Donald Trump -- have called for more consequences against Omar as well as her resignation.

The House then voted in favor of adding the language as an amendment.

Republicans stood up and applauded when House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, agreed to allow the language and support it.

The motion to recommit passed 424-0 with two voting present -- Republicans Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie.

On the overall issue of US military support for the war in Yemen, the Republican-controlled Senate passed similar legislation in December, but it was not taken up by the Republican-controlled House. Democrats, who now hold the majority in the House, have made the legislation a priority.

Critics say the US is not directly involved in the hostilities in Yemen, and the resolution could be used to tie the government's hands in other hostile areas.

Engel, however, argued Wednesday the resolution is tailored specifically to address the situation in Yemen and would have no effect on other conflicts.

"This is not a broad, blanket policy," he said on the House floor.

Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that US forces are not engaged in the hostilities in Yemen and the resolution reinterprets US military assistance for Saudi Arabia as support for Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen.

"This resolution is directing us to remove troops that simply ... are not there," McCaul said on the floor.

The Pentagon says the US continues to provide limited, non-combat support to the Saudi-led coalition that is supporting the Yemeni government in its fight with the Houthis, who receive assistance from Iran.

While the US ended its practice of aerial refueling of Saudi and Emirati jets last year, the US continues to share intelligence focused on countering Houthi missile and drone attacks, as well as providing advice on processes and procedures aimed at helping to avoid civilian casualties.

Democrats acknowledge the Defense Department ended aerial refueling but say the resolution would make that permanent so that the decision couldn't be reversed.

"If you care about the outrage that the Saudis are inflicting on Americans and on the world, the only patriotic thing to do is to vote for this resolution," Rep. Ro Khanna, who introduced the measure, said on the floor ahead of the vote.

The top United States military commander in the Middle East suggested earlier this month that the US would continue to back its allies waging war in Yemen, despite new evidence of arms deal violations uncovered by a CNN investigation.

The report revealed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had transferred US-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias and other groups on the ground.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that withdrawing US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen would remove the "leverage we have to continue to influence them" and could further endanger Americans in the region.

Votel said the US has not authorized Saudi Arabia retransfer any of this equipment to other parties on the ground in Yemen.

"We also remain steadfast in reminding the Saudi-led coalition partners of their obligations under the law of armed conflict and ensuring that the fight in Yemen does not spread across the region, sewing more instability and threatening critical infrastructure in US lives and interest," he said.

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