House declares U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's Yemen war an unauthorized use of force

Yemenis in Saana look at wreckage from a Saudi bomb
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, the House passed a resolution declaring U.S. support for a Saudi-led military operation in Yemen outside the scope of congressional authorization to fight al Qaeda and allied groups. The nonbinding measure passed with broad bipartisan support, 366 to 30. It does not call for the Trump administration to cease supporting Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen, where an air campaign against Iran-allied Houthis had killed thousands of civilians and contributed to a growing humanitarian disaster, but it publicly acknowledges America's role.

"To date, 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," the resolution states, either the 2001 version or the 2003 version for the Iraq War. "What our military is not authorized to do is assist the Saudi Arabian regime in fighting the Houthis," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the resolution with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), said on the House floor. "In many cases, the Saudis have aligned with al Qaeda to fight the Houthis, undermining our very counterterrorism operations."

Khanna has been urging Congress to step up its oversight of America's military operations, arguing that the Yemen conflict requires specific congressional authorization under the War Powers Act. Some Republicans disagree with that contention, and House GOP leaders agreed to a vote after watering down the measure. "I don't believe our security cooperation with the Saudis triggers War Powers," said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). "But just because it does not arise under that particular statute, does not make it immune from our scrutiny." The Senate has no corresponding legislation, Politico notes.

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