Yesterday, the House of Representatives handed President Donald J. Trump a historic rebuke when it overwhelmingly passed House Joint Resolution 37, by invoking the War Powers resolution of 1973 in directing the administration to cease support for the Saudi-UAE led war on Yemen.
The resolution, which passed the House by a vote of 248-177, was sponsored by California Democrat Ro Khanna. who has been leading the effort to end American military support for the Saudi war, which, to date, has resulted in an estimated 60,000 deaths and by most accounts, including that of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet.
The bill directs the president “to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen within 30 days unless Congress authorizes a later withdrawal date, issues a declaration of war, or specifically authorizes the use of the Armed Forces. Prohibited activites include providing in-flight fueling for non-U.S. aircraft conducting missions as part of the conflict in Yemen.”
The bill also explicitly states that it does not affect any military operations directed at Al Qaeda.
In a statement released yesterday, Khanna (who spoke at length to The Nation on his years-long effort to pass this legislation last month) said:
Today is historic. This is the culmination of several years of legislative efforts to end our involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen. I’m encouraged by the direction people are pushing our party to take on foreign policy, promoting restraint and human rights and with the sense they want Congress to play a much larger role.
I applaud all cosponsors for supporting this historic effort and thank my 248 colleagues who voted yes on passage today, especially Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer, House Armed Services Committee Chair Smith, HFAC Chair Engel, Rules Chair McGovern, CPC Co-Chair Pocan and nearly 100 cosponsors of my resolution. I’d also like to thank Senator Sanders for being my thought partner and co-lead on this work in the upper chamber.
This last point is worth emphasizing. Initially, under the leadership and direction of Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, the House did everything in its power to prevent Khanna’s bill from coming to a vote. Yet, over the course of the past year, there has been something of a sea change in attitude toward Saudi Arabia on Capitol Hill, no doubt in large part caused by the grotesque murder and dismemberment of the prominent Saudi activist Jamal Khasoggi in Istanbul last October.
That event led to a wide reevaluation of our support for the Saudi regime, which is reflected in the bipartisan support Khanna’s bill attracted. Of the 96 who are listed as Khanna’s co-sponsors are Republicans like the late Walter Jones of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado, and Andy Biggs of Arizona. The bill also attracted the support a large number of Democratic hawks like New York’s Kathleen Rice as well as rising progressive favorites like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the wondrously brave Ilhan Omar.
So what’s next? According to Khanna’s spokeswoman Heather Purcell, “The Senate will now take up the resolution given its privileged status. After 10 calendar days, any senator can motion to discharge and force a vote. If passed, it will be sent to the President’s desk for his consideration.”
Meanwhile, according to Purcell, Khanna plans to meet with acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and perhaps also with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, who is leading the peace negotiations.
The passage of the bill is one of the few hopeful things to have happened in Trump’s Washington. Here’s to hoping the Senate now takes up and passes the legislation.