– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following remarks last evening on the House floor in support of a resolution that expresses the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy toward Yemen (H.Res.599):
“I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank you Mr. Speaker. And I want to commend Mr. Khanna for his leadership, because I think that it’s important with that our newer Members come here and really make a difference for these important events all around the world, so I want to thank you.
“I rise in support of this measure that shines a light on the carnage and suffering that has defined the conflict in Yemen.
“I want to again thank Mr. Khanna, who has shown real leadership on this issue. He understands the critical role Congress has to play in our foreign policy, why it’s so important that this body take the time to talk about the civil war in Yemen and America’s involvement.
“The United States wields tremendous power—diplomatic, military, and developmental—and we have an obligation to debate how those tools are used.
“We’ve heard about Saudi and Iranian involvement in the civil war in Yemen. Sadly, Yemenis are caught in the crossfire. The devastation of Yemen’s infrastructure has led to 900,000 cholera cases. At least one Yemeni child dies every ten minutes, on average, from malnutrition, diarrhea, or respiratory tract infections.
“Last week, the Saudis interpreted, intercepted a missile targeting Riyadh. In response, the Saudi-led coalition closed all Yemeni ports of entry. Since last week, no humanitarian assistance has been allowed to enter Yemen. Fuel shortages are limiting access for USAID at a time when more than 75 percent of Yemenis require some level of assistance, including 6.8 million people entirely reliant on food aid. So, the people of Yemen are facing a very dire situation.
“But, let’s be clear: neither military action nor food aid will solve the conflict in Yemen. A political solution is essential for moving Yemen toward stability.
“That will require some compromise, an exit strategy for the Yemeni government’s Gulf partners, and a real commitment by the international community to prevent Iranian weapons from getting into Yemen.
“So, what does all this mean for America’s role? As this resolution notes, the United States provides mid-air refueling for the Saudi-led coalition and participates in intelligence cooperation.
“Today’s debate reminds us that the United States is engaged with partners around the world under a range of authorities. Some of these activities are covered by a current authorization for the use of military force—AUMF. Some are not.
“In my view, we should have more clarity about the way we use American military might—not just in Yemen, but around the world. After all, it’s Congress’s responsibility to declare war, or to limit a President’s authority to wage war when necessary.
“I’ve said for years that we should sunset the 2001 AUMF. We voted then to give the President authorization to go after the people and groups that attacked on 9/11.
“We never intended it to be a blank check. Today, we face new threats—threats unrelated to the terrorists who attacked my home town, New York City, on September 11th.
“We owe it to our men and women in uniform to have a thorough and honest debate before we send them into harm’s way—to stand in this body and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before we ask them to put their lives on the line.
“This measure helps to move that debate forward. I’m glad to support it. I urge all members to do the same. I thank Mr. Khanna for his leadership and I yield back the balance of my time.”
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