U.S. Role in Yemen War Will End Unless Trump Issues Second Veto
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday gave final passage to a bipartisan resolution forcing an end to United States military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, sending President Trump a pointed rebuke over his continued defense of the kingdom after the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The 247-to-176 vote, with 16 Republicans joining all House Democrats, invoked the rarely used War Powers Act to curb the president’s executive power to wage war without congressional approval. It most likely sets up the second veto of Mr. Trump’s presidency, this time to publicly defend a four-year conflict that the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians killed and millions suffering from famine.
The Senate passed the resolution in March, 54 to 46.
“The vote in the Senate and in the House makes it clear that the United States will not continue to follow the despotic, anti-democratic leadership coming out of Saudi Arabia,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and one of the lead sponsors of the resolution. “The United States should not be led into a war by a despotic, undemocratic, murderous regime.”
Supporters of the Yemen resolution have faced a grueling road in recent months to get the legislation onto the president’s desk. The Senate — led by the resolution’s authors, Senators Mike Lee, Republican of Utah; Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut; and Mr. Sanders — first passed the measure 56 to 41 in December, but Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker at the time, refused to take it up.
His successor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, did, and the House easily passed it in February. But House Democrats inadvertently derailed the process by supporting a surprise procedural motion offered by Republicans to declare the chamber’s opposition to anti-Semitism. By attaching an unrelated amendment to the Yemen resolution, the House ended its “privileged” status, which would have forced the Senate to quickly take it up and send it to Mr. Trump.
The Senate then had to start from scratch.
The vote on Thursday amounted to a do-over. Republicans again tried to derail the resolution with a last-minute procedural maneuver to attach an amendment to condemn the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, a provision that put Democrats in a difficult position.
But this time, intent on ensuring the legislation would not be knocked off course again, Democratic leaders rallied their rank and file to oppose Republicans’ efforts. Representative Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat and one of the strongest pro-Israel voices in the House, stood to condemn the Republican maneuver.
“This is about politics,” he said. “This is about trying to drive a wedge into this caucus where it does not belong.”
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, accused Republicans of “using Israel as a partisan cudgel” and urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.
“Its intention is not to unite but to divide. Its intention is not to support our ally but to kill this bill through a cynical and dishonest tactic,” Mr. Hoyer said as Democrats stood and applauded. “Let’s stop playing games with this very important and serious issue.”
To persuade the president to support the legislation, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Representatives Ro Khanna, Democrat of California and one of the lead sponsors of the resolution, and Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and one of the president’s staunchest allies — requested to meet with the president, appealing to his desire “to achieve our shared interest in responsibly drawing down needless conflicts throughout the world.”
The House resolution employs the 1973 War Powers Act, which gave Congress the ability to compel the removal of military forces absent a formal declaration of war. Those powers, created in the wake of the Vietnam War, have almost never been used, as lawmakers have demurred from intervening in politically sensitive matters of war, peace and support for the troops.
“When we started talking with folks about doing this, they basically laughed it off,” said Stephen Miles, the director of Win Without War, an advocacy coalition that lobbied for the resolution. “They said it wouldn’t happen; Congress doesn’t ever invoke the War Powers Act. It was a really long arduous process of education.”
In its justification for opposing the resolution, the White House argued that the use of the act “is flawed” because the Pentagon has provided “limited support to member countries of the Saudi-led coalition” in Yemen. That argument may have been more resonant years ago — repeated bipartisan attempts in 2016 to rebuke the American role in the Saudi-led intervention stalled in both the House and the Senate, beginning with efforts to block the sale of munitions to the Saudis.
But after the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia-based columnist for The Washington Post, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, livid at the administration’s equivocal response, signaled a new willingness to reconsider the relationship with Riyadh. Lawmakers have grown increasingly vocal about reasserting their oversight on foreign policy.
“We are clawing back our constitutional responsibilities,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts.
And the public has become more aware of the crisis in Yemen, where an estimated 80 percent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance or protection and millions are without access to clean drinking water, according to the United Nations.