Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of a resolution to end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen (S.Res.7), which later passed the House.
“Madam Chair, it’s a little surprising that we find ourselves back on the floor debating this resolution. After all, it’s already passed both chambers with bipartisan support. In fact, it’s passed the Senate twice.
“But opponents of this measure have used every trick in the book to slow it down, to try and derail it. But we’ve reached the last page in that book, and I’m confident that after we vote today, this resolution will head to the President’s desk.
“And the President will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy—when it comes to determining when and where our military is engaged in hostilities.
“We’re taking up this resolution because we see a policy from this Administration that has strayed from our values and a crisis that demands moral leadership, which is the war in Yemen.
“I fully understand America’s security concerns in Yemen. I appreciate the complexities of our interests in the region. The Houthis are trouble. They launch missiles and armed UAVs into Saudi territory and international waters, and that’s a direct threat to Americans. They are starving the Yemeni people, diverting assistance, and holding civilians hostage to their political demands.
“The Houthis are one of the groups Iran uses to drive instability and gain influence. We all know what a serious threat Iran poses in the region. The regime is the world’s prolific state sponsor of terrorism. So it’s important that we push back against Iran and those who depend on Iranian support.
“But the Saudi-led coalition’s response has not grappled with this problem in a responsible way. In a way designed to minimize damage to civilians and the communities where they live. In a way that could help bring about a political solution to this crisis.
“Instead, time after time after time, coalition strikes have resulted in the loss of innocent life. And the violence has set off ripple effects that have contributed to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Eighty-five thousand children have starved to death. Fourteen million are on the brink of famine. More than a million suffer from cholera. Just last week, the coalition reportedly bombed a hospital run by Save the Children.
“In the face of this catastrophe, the Administration has demanded no accountability from the Saudis and Emiratis. But Congress won’t remain silent.
“This brings us once again to the resolution we’re now considering. This measure would specifically ban aerial refueling of warplanes carrying out airstrikes. The Defense Department has stopped refueling as a matter of policy. This measure would do so as a matter of law.
“The Defense Department also says that the United States is not engaged in hostilities when it comes to this war. Well, the Defense Department is entitled to its opinion, but Congress is a coequal branch of government and only we say and decide when the United States is at war. We don’t look to the executive branch to explain the war powers that reside in this body or for permission to exercise that power—the power the Framers gave to Congress.
“This measure is written very narrowly so it won’t tie the hands of the executive branch or set new precedents or cause unintended consequences when it comes to our other security agreements around the world. It does nothing to expand or modify the authority provided under the authorization for the use of military force this body passed in 2001.
“Instead, it focuses on this particular tragedy and sends the message that enough is enough—that Congress will no longer abdicate its responsibility when it comes to foreign policy and that we will push to make sure our values are at the core of how the United States conducts itself around the world.
“This resolution is rooted in those values. Respect for human rights, for human dignity. The belief that all people should be able to live free of fear and oppression and violence. I hope the President understands that. And if he uses his veto pen, I hope he understands just what it is he’s vetoing.
“Let me thank Mr. Ro Khanna for his hard work and leadership on the resolution we are considering today. I also want to thank our Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. McCaul. We have an honest disagreement on this one, but he’s consistently and forthrightly made his case on the policy. And I’m grateful to all my colleagues who have contributed so much to this important debate.”
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