A measure passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday would largely end U.S. military involvement in the Yemeni civil war.
The final vote was 247-175, with 16 Republicans joining 231 Democrats in approving the resolution. Just one congressman voted present: the libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.), who has previously said he didn't support the bill because it includes an exception that he believes expands the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
The Senate passed the measure last month. It now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump, who has previously signaled he will veto it. While it's unlikely that either house of Congress can muster the two-thirds majority needed to override such a veto, the measure's passage is significant on its own. It's the first time ever a war powers resolution has reached a president's desk, according to Politico.
The measure cites the War Powers Act of 1973, which seeks to ensure that the president only commits U.S. military forces to conflicts abroad if he has congressional approval. While U.S. forces are not directly involved in the fighting, they have assisted the Saudi coalition by sharing intelligence and proving logistical support. U.S. forces also supported the Saudis with aerial refueling, but ceased doing so last year.
"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," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D–N.Y.), according to The New York Times.
But Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (R–Texas) argued the measure misinterprets the War Power Act's true meaning of the word "hostilities."
"The fundamental premise of this resolution is flawed because U.S. forces are not engaged in hostilities against the Houthis in Yemen," McCaul said, according to the Washington Post. "If we want to cut off economic assistance or logistic assistance to Saudi, there's a way to do that…I think we're using the wrong vehicle here."
The War Powers Act encompasses "the assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities." According to the measure passed Thursday, the "activities that the United States is conducting in support of the Saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling and targeting assistance, fall within this definition."
The Yemen resolution first passed in the Senate in December. The House passed the measure in February, but Republicans added an anti-Semitism amendment that forced the Senate to do it all over again. This time around, House Republicans tried to amend the bill with a measure to condemn the global BDS movement to boycott the nation of Israel. However, most Democrats opposed the amendment.
Among the Republicans to vote yes on the Yemen resolution were Reps. Mark Meadows (R–N.C), Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), Thomas Massie (R–Ky.). While Amash has been a notable opponent of U.S. involvement in Yemen, he voted present, just as he did in February.
Back then, Amash pointed out on Twitter that the legislation expands the AUMF, which gives the president power to take military action against any nation or person he believes to have been involved in the 9/11 terror attacks. "The legislation makes an exception for 'Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at al-Qaeda or associated forces,'" Amash wrote at the time. "The notion of undefined 'associated forces' is not part of the 2001 AUMF and significantly expands it."