WASHINGTON – The House approved a measure Thursday that would force President Donald Trump to end U.S. military support of Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen.
Next up is a proposal that would bar Trump from launching a military strike against Iran, which supporters predict will pass in a vote set for Friday.
The twin legislative actions represent a new level of congressional push back against Trump’s foreign policy, as Democrats use their House majority to rebuke the president over his aggressive stance toward Iran and his cozy ties with Saudi Arabia.
Both amendments are being considered as part of a broader defense bill. The Senate approved its version of the defense bill last month without those contentious add-ons. The two chambers will have to reconcile the competing versions in the coming weeks.
Trump has already vetoed a stand-alone bill to end the U.S. role in Yemen. He argued it was “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt” to weaken his constitutional power.
Republicans in Congress have also said that limiting U.S. involvement in Yemen would give Iran a green light to spread its influence across the region.
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“Iran poses a massive geostrategic threat in the area around Yemen (and) throughout the Middle East,” Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said during Thursday’s debate. “We cannot signal to Iran that their continued aggression will be tolerated.”
GOP lawmakers also argued that America’s current role in Yemen – which involves providing logistical, intelligence and targeting assistance to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – does not amount to using American military force.
But supporters of the Yemen measure rejected that argument and noted that the Saudi-led coalition has caused thousands of civilian casualties with their U.S.-assisted bombing campaign. They hailed Thursday’s 240-to-185 vote as a pivotal step toward reclaiming Congress’ war-making powers and ending a horrific conflict that has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
“The only way to prevent the starvation of millions of Yemenis is to end the war,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a chief sponsor of the amendment, said in a tweet. “The US cannot be an effective broker for peace if it continues to arm and militarily support on side of the conflict. This is how we reassert Congress’ role in matters of war & peace.”
Khanna is also a key backer of the Iran amendment, which would bar the Trump administration from using any federal funds for military force “in or against” the Islamic Republic. Democrats and some Republicans have become alarmed by Trump’s actions and rhetoric toward Iran.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, on a reintroduction of a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)
Trump nearly bombed Iran last month after Tehran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. Although the president called off the strike at the last minute, he has since threatened Iran with “obliteration” and warned that the U.S. would use “overwhelming force” if it attacked American assets or personnel.
Democrats say a war with Iran would be a prolonged and disastrous conflict – precisely the kind of “endless war” that Trump campaigned against in 2016.
Although the Iran measure is likely to pass the House, the GOP-held Senate rejected a similar proposal last month as that chamber debated its defense authorization bill. Many Senate Republicans warned that restricting Trump’s military options would be a dangerous step at a time when Iran has allegedly threatened U.S. assets in the region.
The U.S.-Iran tensions come as Tehran has stopped complying with key elements of the 2015 nuclear deal, which limited Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump withdrew from that deal last year, saying it was not strict enough, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
European leaders have tried to salvage the deal, but last week, Iran said it had started enriching uranium at levels that breach the accord.
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard
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