- A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday renewed efforts to end US support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict.
- Several Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for a resolution on this for some time, but struggled to gain support largely until the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Khashoggi was killed by members of the Saudi government in October, sparking global outrage.
- The Trump administration’s apparent unwillingness to punish the Saudis over Khashoggi’s killing drove many in Congress to embrace legislative actions against the kingdom.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Wednesday renewed a fight to restrict President Donald Trump’s war powers related to US involvement in the Yemen conflict.
The Senate in late 2018 voted in favor of a resolution to end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen, but House Republicans blocked any deliberation on the matter while they still had a majority. At the time, the lawmakers leading the charge for the resolution vowed to come back to the issue in 2019 once Democrats took over the House.
Fulfilling that promise, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, Republican Sen. Mike Lee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday introduced an updated version of the resolution. They were were joined by House Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, and Pramila Jayapal in this effort.
“We are going to send a strong signal to the president that the US Congress is prepared to play the role designed for us by the framers of the Constitution,” Sanders said in a statement. “The Founders specifically gave Congress – the branch closest to the people – the power to declare war. Yet we’ve been participating in war actions in the Yemeni Civil War since 2015 without the go-ahead from Congress.”
Sanders described US involvement in the Yemen war, which has included providing arms and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition, as “unconstitutional.”
The historic December Senate vote on Yemen invoked the War Powers Act of 1973 and was the first time either chamber voted to withdraw US forces from a conflict or potential hostilities without congressional approval.
Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal killing led to a major shift in Congress on the issue of US involvement in Yemen
Lawmakers like Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy have focused on this issue for years, but largely struggled to bring their colleagues to their side until the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi..
Khashoggi was killed in October 2018 by members of the Saudi government in the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi’s death is widely believed to have been orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the de facto ruler of the kingdom. The writer was often critical of the Saudi royal family.
The Trump administration stood by the crown prince despite global condemnation following Khashoggi’s killing. The support for Prince Mohammed has put him at odds with Congress, including members of the GOP foreign policy establishment who tend to align with the president on other issues.
A number of lawmakers who previously showed no significant interest in limiting US involvement in the Yemen conflict shifted after Khashoggi’s killing.
In an interview with The Nation on Wednesday, Khanna alluded to Khashoggi’s influence in convincing some colleagues.
Khanna said there were a few reasons for the change of heart among members of Congress. One was “dishonest” claims from members of the Trump administration about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, according to the lawmaker.
Another was concern over the “bombing of children and women.” Khanna said lawmakers were “shook” by reports of civilian casualties from airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition, as well as reports full of images of starving Yemeni children.
But Khashoggi’s death was “the final straw,” Khanna said, “and the fact that he was murdered because of his opposition to the Yemen War.”
US bombs have been at the center of a conflict that’s estimated to have killed nearly 58,000 people
The Yemen conflict, which many characterize as a civil war, began in 2015 and has since claimed roughly 58,000 lives, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
The war is largely about Saudi Arabia and Iran’s contest for dominance in the region. As the US has long viewed Iran as a top adversary, it’s supported the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts in Yemen despite concerns about reckless bombings and civilian casualties.
The Saudis have helped induce what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis via blockades on Yemen’s ports, which have drastically impacted the amount of aid entering the country.
Bombs made and supplied by the US have been linked to civilian casualties Yemen, including the deaths of children.
Lawmakers seem confident that the resolution to end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen will be successful now that Democrats control the House. But Trump can still veto it, which he’s threatened to do, and it would take a two-thirds majority in both chambers to thwart him.