House OKs Measure to Force US Withdrawal From Yemen

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a measure directing President Donald Trump to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, setting up a major foreign policy showdown with the White House.

Houthi Shiite mourners chant slogans on April 28, 2018, as they attend the funeral of Saleh al-Samad, a senior Houthi official who was killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on April 19, in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The resolution easily cleared the Democrat-controlled House with a 248-177 vote Wednesday afternoon and now goes to the Senate, which approved a similar measure last year.

U.S. military forces have been involved in a Saudi-led fight against the Houthis in Yemen despite Congress never having authorized their presence, according to the resolution. The measure directs Trump to remove troops from Yemen, except for those who are fighting directly against al Qaeda or similar forces.

Within 90 days of Congress approving the resolution, the Trump administration must also provide a report detailing the potential risks of the withdrawal of U.S. support from the conflict.

Democrats who brought the resolution, led by Rep. Ro Khanna of California, said the measure will help claw back congressional authority over the country’s involvement in wars.

“The only patriotic thing, if you care about our troops, if you care about American interests, 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,” Khanna said on the House floor Wednesday.

The Trump administration has threatened to veto the resolution, saying U.S. troops have been limited to supporting the Saudi-led coalition in the region. In a statement of administration policy released earlier this week, the White House said U.S. forces are limited to sharing intelligence and providing logistical support to allies involved in the fight.

The White House further said pulling forces from the conflict would hurt relationships between the United States and other countries in the region and would harm U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

“Our continued cooperation with regional partner nations allows the United States to support diplomatic negotiations to end the conflict, promote humanitarian access, mitigate civilian casualties, enhance efforts to recover United States hostages in Yemen and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States,” the White House said in the statement.

Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed this concern, saying the resolution overstates U.S. involvement in the conflict.

“As the Department of Defense has repeatedly confirmed, U.S. armed forces are not engaged in hostilities against the Houthi forces in Yemen,”McCaul said. “This resolution is directing us to remove troops that simply are not there.”

But while some Republicans and the Trump administration said the resolution would set a bad precedent for how the White House is able to step into foreign conflicts, Representative Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the measure is focused solely at the conflict in Yemen.

“This is not a broad blanket policy that is going to tie the hands of the executive branch,” Engel said Wednesday on the House floor. “There is no dangerous precedent being set here, just an attempt to stop a war that’s costing far too many innocent lives.”

The House added on a Republican amendment just before passing the full measure that clarifies the administration is still allowed to conduct intelligence gathering and sharing efforts with foreign countries under the resolution.

Lawmakers also voted to add a broad condemnation of anti-Semitism to the resolution, following controversial tweets over the weekend by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., that were widely criticized as anti-Semitic.

If Trump follows through on his veto threat, Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. The resolution received 56 votes in the Senate last year, short of the required margin. 

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