WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the first time both chambers have invoked the War Powers Act since it became law in 1973.
The vote was 247-175, with 16 Republicans siding with Democrats. It had passed the Senate earlier this year on a 54-46 vote.
The resolution requires the withdrawal within 30 days of U.S. military forces in or “affecting” Yemen unless they are fighting al Qaeda.
Last December the Senate voted to 56-to-41 to invoke the War Powers Act regarding Yemen. However, GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan blocked the resolution from going to the House floor for a vote.
The War Powers Act is designed to check the president’s power to commit the U.S. forces to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. It requires the president to withdraw troops engaged in hostilities abroad within 60 to 90 days unless he or she receives authorization from Congress to keep the troops in the conflict.
President Donald Trump has previously said he would veto the Yemen resolution.
“The vote today reflects the American people’s broad support for ending U.S. involvement in yet another Middle East civil war. It is long past time to rethink our post-9/11 foreign policy,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director of Defense Priorities, told TMN in a statement.
“No U.S. national security interest justifies American involvement. The war in Yemen has been both a strategic failure and a humanitarian disaster. Ending U.S. support for the Saudi-UAE campaign in Yemen will aid negotiations that could settle the civil war. That is not only good for Yemenis, but also for accomplishing U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Yemen,” he said.
Yemen’s civil war started in 2014 when Houthi rebels captured Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. The Houthis are supported by Iran; a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition is battling them on behalf of the Yemen government.
At least 6,800 civilians have been killed and 10,700 injured in the war, with 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, and a cholera outbreak that has infected 1.2 million people, the United Nations has said. U.N. agencies have reported that 14 million Yemenis face famine.
The congressional votes reflect in part rising sentiment in Congress against the Saudi-led war in Yemen and its mounting humanitarian tragedy, as well as what many members see as the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.
Last November, the Pentagon announced it would cease assisting Saudi Arabia with air refueling in its war in Yemen, but continue to provide intelligence and other support to the war effort.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said a pullback of U.S. support would be counter-productive, as it would weaken U.S support for nascent peace efforts for Yemen and weaken U.S influence on the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes, among other things.