Directing the Removal of United States Armed Forces From Hostilities in the Republic of Yemen That Have Not Been Authorized By Congress

Floor Speech

Date: April 4, 2019
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs


Mr. McCAUL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, let me first say, at the outset, that the chairman and I work very closely together. There is a recent article that said that Chairman Eliot Engel and Ranking Member McCaul forge a rare bipartisan bond, and I think that is the way we like to conduct this committee. It is a national security committee, and it needs to be bipartisan. However, as the chairman mentioned, there are times when we do have policy differences, but we do have respect in those differences.

We did take this up on the floor several weeks ago. I did oppose it then, and I oppose it for the same reasons today, most importantly, because the resolution uses the war powers mechanisms to direct the removal of U.S. troops from hostilities.

The problem is there are no U.S. Forces to remove, and the basic premise of this resolution is that somehow we have forces in Yemen that need to be removed that are engaged in hostilities. As the Department of Defense has repeatedly confirmed, no United States Forces are conducting hostilities against the Houthis in Yemen.

This resolution abuses a war powers tool to get at a completely different security assistance issue which Congress already has clear tools to address. If Members want to condition or cut off U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia, then bring forward a bill to do just that.

But this resolution does nothing to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It does nothing to secure justice for the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It does not even make real decisions on U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia. The only thing it addresses clearly is the midair refueling of coalition aircraft, ended in November of 2018, which is not in danger of restarting.

Meanwhile, this resolution stretches the definition of war powers hostilities to cover non-U.S. military operations by other countries. Specifically, it reinterprets U.S. support to these countries as ``engagement in hostilities.''

This radical reinterpretation has implications far beyond Saudi Arabia. This precedent will empower any single Member to use privileged war powers procedures to force congressional referendums that could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries around the world.

Just days after Israel was forced to respond to rocket attacks from Gaza, I believe this would be a dangerous precedent to legitimize this abuse of process.

It could also be used to call into question our commitments to NATO members. Let me remind my colleagues that we are celebrating NATO's 70th anniversary this week, as we saw the Secretary of NATO address a joint session of Congress.

Finally, this one-sided resolution completely ignores the destructive role of the Houthis and their backers in Tehran. The Houthis violently overthrew the Government of Yemen. They are attacking Saudi Arabia with weapons they got from Iran in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. They have killed Saudi civilians and endangered many Americans living there.

Human Rights Watch accused the Houthis of taking hostages and torturing detainees. The United Nations says the Houthis use civilian human shields. The World Food Program has criticized them for illegally stealing urgently needed food aid. The Houthis have targeted ships in the Red Sea.

These realities are ignored in the text of this resolution. The only impact this resolution will have on the Houthis will be to encourage them.

In addition, Madam Speaker, this is very important because, since the last time we debated this on the floor, the Houthis engaged in a propaganda outlet, supported by Hezbollah, actively touting this very resolution online. They used our debate on the floor of the Congress to advance their propaganda, a proxy of Iran and Yemen.

This is what we are doing here today. I would submit, Madam Speaker, that is very dangerous. It is dangerous, and I believe it is reckless.

This will weaken the hand of the U.N. Special Envoy, as well, to Yemen, whose efforts currently represent the best hope we have of bringing a negotiated end to this conflict and ending the suffering of the people of Yemen.

So, for these reasons, I continue to oppose this pro-Iran, pro-Houthi resolution.


Mr. McCAUL. Madam Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. McCAUL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As I close, I include in the Record a statement of administration policy issued on Monday. Statement of Administration Policy

S.J. Res. 7--Directing the President to Remove United States Armed

Forces from Hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that Have Not Been

Authorized by Congress--Sen. Sanders, I-VT and 19 cosponsors

The Administration strongly opposes passage of S.J. Res. 7, a joint resolution that purports to direct the President to remove United States forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, with certain exceptions.

The premise of the joint resolution is flawed. Since 2015, the United States has provided limited support to member countries of the Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence sharing, logistics support, and, until recently, aerial refueling, to assist in the defense of United States allies and partners. The provision of this support has not caused United States forces to be introduced into hostilities. Such support is provided pursuant to licenses and approvals under the Arms Export Control Act, statutory authorities for Department of Defense to provide logistics support to foreign countries, and the President's constitutional powers. Because the President has directed United States forces to support the Saudi-led coalition under his constitutional powers, the joint resolution would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent it seeks to override the President's determination as Commander in Chief.

In addition to its erroneous premise, the joint resolution would harm bilateral relationships in the region, negatively affect our ability to prevent the spread of violent extremist organizations--such as al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS in Yemen--and establish bad precedent for future legislation by defining ``hostilities'' to include defense cooperation such as aerial refueling for purposes of this legislation. While we appreciate that sections 5 and 6 of the resolution acknowledge these serious consequences to some extent, after-the-fact reporting is not an effective means to mitigate them. Our continued cooperation with regional partner nations allows the United States to support diplomatic negotiations to end the conflict, promote humanitarian access, mitigate civilian casualties, enhance efforts to recover United States hostages in Yemen, and defeat terrorists who seek to harm the United States.

If S.J. Res. 7 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the joint resolution.


Mr. McCAUL. Madam Speaker, it really, basically, states yet again that the fundamental premise of this resolution is flawed, because U.S. forces are not engaged in hostilities against the Houthis in Yemen, which is what the War Powers Act requires.

If we want to cut off economic assistance or logistic assistance, security assistance to Saudi, there is a way to do that, but it is not through the War Powers Act.

I think it is unfortunate that we couldn't work that out, but I think we are using the wrong vehicle here. I think this confrontation abuses the War Powers process, and we need to protect the integrity of the War Powers Act that Congress, in its wisdom, passed.

Also, what worries me is the resolution stays silent on the role of Iran. It does not condemn the Houthis, who are responsible for the killings. It tells them both to press on. It also undermines the peace negotiations going on, as I speak. The U.S. envoy is working with the full support of the United States to negotiate a political end to this conflict.

Getting all parties to the table has taken substantial pressure, which I believe this resolution would relieve.

Again, I think the fact that the Houthis are using this resolution as propaganda to advance their cause is concerning and disturbing.

The other side cannot tell us specifically what assistance this resolution would cut off. What I can say for sure is that this resolution says to the Houthis and to Iran to keep going, because you can gain more ground.

It only emboldens the rebels who violently overthrew Yemen's government and the radical regime that backs them. That would be Iran.

So I think this resolution would set a dangerous precedent with respect to the War Powers Act, a dangerous, damaging policy. Once again, Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against it, and I yield back the balance of my time.