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US Congress votes to end Yemen war support

April 4, 2019

Congress used a decades-old War Powers Resolution to try and stop US support for the foreign conflict in Yemen. But it does not have the votes to override a likely presidential veto.

The Peace Monument on Capitol Hill, Washington
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The House of Representatives voted 247 to 175 on Thursday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. It follows a Senate resolution passed last month.

It is the first time both chambers of Congress have voted to invoke the 1973 War Powers Act, created in the wake of the Vietnam War, to curb the executive's power to take the US into a conflict without congressional approval.

Sixteen Republicans joined Democrats in the House vote, after seven of their colleagues had done the same in the Senate which passed a parallel resolution 54 votes to 46 in March.

Authority over war and peace

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congressman, Ro Khanna had sponsored the measure and they issued a statement after the vote: "Today, the US House of Representatives took a clear stand against war and famine and for Congress' war powers by voting to end our complicity in the war in Yemen."

Khanna had said previously his motivation for the bill was very simple: "I don’t want to see 14 million Yemenis starve to death," he said.

"Finally, the US Congress has reclaimed its constitutional authority over matters of war and peace," they wrote.

However, President Donald Trump has said he would veto the bill, saying in a statement that it raises "serious constitutional concerns" and is based on an "erroneous premise." 

To pass a bill over the president's objections, each chamber of Congress would need a two-thirds majority. There is no such majority in either the Senate or the House. Congress also opposed the 2011 intervention in Libya, but was overruled by then-President Barack Obama.  

The CIA concluded Mohammed bin Salman had ordered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing
The CIA concluded Mohammed bin Salman had ordered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killingImage: imago/Pacific Press Agency/A. Lohr-Jones

A rebuke for the president

The vote is a pointed rebuke to President Donald Trump who has continued to defend the Saudi kingdom, despite the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Turkey. The CIA concluded the killing was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US support for the Yemen conflict began under the presidency of Barack Obama in the form of intelligence sharing, logistical support and weapons sales. The Trump administration has defended support for Saudi Arabia as the means to control the spread of Iran's influence in the region.

Democrats regard the discussion of Iran as secondary to the right of Congress to dictate when and where the US engages in military conflict. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot L. Engel stated the case on Thursday: "No blank checks any more," he said on the House floor. "No blank checks to say that administration can run wars without getting the approval of Congress."

Yemenis protest after airstrike killed over 140 at funeral

jm/msh (AP, Reuters)

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