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Vote Notes: H.Res.599, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen


Date: Nov. 18, 2017

This past week, the House passed Resolution 599, which expresses the need for a political solution in Yemen consistent with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 or as otherwise agreed to by the parties. In short form, it expresses the sense of Congress in regards to our strategy in Yemen. The measure passed, but I was one of 30 who voted against the bill, and here's why:

In life, we are measured by what we do rather than what we say.

This bill said - in a long list of "whereas" clauses - the right thing with regard to our military being subject to the Authorization of the Use of Military Force in operations in Yemen. That's what it said. But again, actions speak louder than words.

So while it suggested we should hold ourselves to an Authorization for the Use of Military Force by Congress, what was in fact acknowledged in the debate was that the Pentagon has been sharing targeting information and refueling planes that Saudi Arabia and other allies are using to attack Houthi rebels in their proxy war in Yemen with Iran.

The latest estimates show that we have spent over $5 trillion on operations in the Middle East. Most of these operations have occurred without an Authorization for the Use of Military Force agreement. I have spoken up many times on the importance of our doing so because the Founding Fathers were deliberate in investing in the Congress alone the responsibility of the authorization of force. They knew that body bags came back to districts across this country - not to Washington. Yet we keep on operating, and administration after administration seems to double down in their belief that they can act without Congress' direct approval.

Congress quietly objects but funds whatever the administrations decide to do in operations...and the charade goes on with great cost to the taxpayer and in loss of life and limb to American soldiers.

It is legitimate to say that we think we have a vital interest in that part of the world and need to fund continued operations. But that debate needs to take place in earnest, and what we saw in this resolution was yet another backdoor attempt by Congress to say that we don't approve...but the actions of the United States won't really change.

I have watched portions of Ken Burns' special on PBS with regard to the Vietnam War and the 55,000 American lives that were lost in that conflict. In every instance, the soldier did their part. They did more than their part as many never came home.

I think that we need to have a much more robust debate on authorizing force in the Middle East, and the idea that a non-binding resolution represents that debate to me is wanting...particularly since actions speak louder than words.