The House of Representatives on Monday voted 366-30 to declare what has long been known — that it has not authorized U.S. action in support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, but other than urging the parties to come to a negotiated solution, the resolution did not actually do anything to end American participation in the conflict.
Since the Saudi bombing of Yemen started in the spring of 2015 — when Saudi forces intervened on the side of ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi — the U.S. has played a close support role. It has aided Saudi bombers with targeting and assisted with refueling. It has also sold tens of billions of dollars in munitions to the Saudis since the war began, while the kingdom has used U.S.-produced aircraft, laser-guided bombs, and internationally banned cluster bombs to target and destroy schools, markets, power plants, and a hospital, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths. Following a deadly strike on a Yemeni funeral in 2016, the U.S. actually doubled fuel support for Saudi airplanes. The war has led to an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions.
Which is why a bipartisan group of lawmakers last month pushed for an actual vote on United States support for the Saudi-led war. California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, and others sought to invoke a clause in the War Powers Act to bring a resolution to the floor that would force an up or down vote on war authorization.
But congressional leadership in both parties pushed back, doing everything they could to prevent a vote. Eventually, a compromise was struck, the result of which was the toothless resolution that passed Monday night.
The resolution acknowledges that “Congress has not enacted specific legislation authorizing the use of military force against parties participating in the Yemeni civil war that are not otherwise subject to the Authorization of Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40) or the Authorization of Use of Military Force in Iraq (Public Law 107–243),” but does not withdraw funding for the participation.
It also “calls on all parties to the conflict to increase efforts to adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent civilian casualties and to increase humanitarian access,” but does not specifically condemn Saudi conduct in the war. It does, however, condemn “Iranian activities in Yemen,” citing arms transfers to the Houthi rebels.
Most of the 30 representatives who opposed the bill were outspoken opponents of U.S. complicity in the Saudi war, such as Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison. One other opponent of Saudi intervention, Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, voted “present.”
On the other end of the Capitol on Tuesday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., brought photos of starving and dying children to the floor of the Senate. “Thousands and thousands inside Yemen today are dying. The Saudi-led coalition that has been engaged in an incessant two-year-long bombing campaign in Yemen is blockading Yemen – not allowing any humanitarian relief, not allowing fuel or food or water to get into the country. It would be one thing if the United States was a mere observer, but we are a participant in this,” said Murphy in a statement. “This horror is caused in part by our decision to facilitate a bombing campaign that is murdering children and to endorse a Saudi strategy inside Yemen that is deliberately using disease and starvation and the withdrawal of humanitarian support as a tactic.”