Congress passed a resolution that would end U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s bloody civil war, but only after House Democrats managed to defeat a GOP poison pill amendment condemning boycotts of Israel.
A rebuke of President Trump and a brushback aimed at the Saudis, the vote marked the culmination of a years-long bipartisan effort in Congress to end American support of the Saudi-led war in the country, which has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet.
“This is important not just for Yemen, where 14 million children and women and civilians face famine, but it’s also important in Congress, reasserting our role in matters of war and peace,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), the bill’s leading House sponsor, said after the vote.
The result is a win for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as well as Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), who worked for years to build support for ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in the country. Its blockade of Yemen has caused widespread famine and starvation.
“Today is a big deal,” Sanders said. “What we’re seeing right now in Yemen is an unparalleled humanitarian disaster. … The United States should not be led into a war by a despotic, murderous regime.”
The votes are largely symbolic — the White House has indicated President Trump will veto the bill, and the U.S. government has already ceased some support of the war by ending U.S. refueling of Saudi planes that was supporting their attacks, though America continues to supply Saudi Arabia with many of its arms for the conflict.
But it’s the first time since the War Powers Act was passed in 1973 that Congress used it to attempt to end an unauthorized war. It marks newfound willingness from Congress to pressure the president, and will be the just the second time Congress has forced Trump to issue a veto following the bipartisan condemnation of Trump’s emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
It was the House’s second stab at the bill — and took some arm-twisting from Democratic leadership to make sure it got through without poison pill amendments this time around.
Republicans once again introduced an unrelated amendment condemning anti-Israel boycotts that meant the bill wouldn’t comply with Senate rules needed to pass it. Last time around, dozens of freshmen Democrats panicked and voted for the GOP amendment. The Senate passed a clean bill, and House Democrats were forced to revote, this time with leadership pressuring nervous lawmakers on the issue. Only two Democrats ended up voting with the GOP this time, after dozens of defections weeks ago.
That was helped when strongly pro-Israel Jewish lawmakers blasted the GOP move.
“I strongly reject what my colleagues are doing here today,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a stridently pro-Israel Democrat, said on the House floor Thursday to cheers from his Democratic colleagues. “This about politics. … My colleagues are trying to block us from standing in support of human rights and our human values.”
This story was updated at 12:50 pm ET.