Action Alert:

Saudi Arabia and Yemen

Additional Information on the Federal Legislative Agenda, 116th Congress (2019-2020)

Saudi Arabia and Yemen

 

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Rihad, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

House Legislative Scorecard 2019-2020

Senate Legislative Scorecard 2019-2020

Prohibit Security Assistance to Saudi Arabia – YES

H.R.643’s sponsor is MA Representative McGovern. This bill, if turned into law, would inhibit any U.S. security support (including intelligence, training, and the like) and arms sales to Saudi Arabia or any state-sponsored agents or instrumentalities, with the exception of activities which protect U.S. diplomatic and consular posts or U.S. citizens. In addition, “Congress may pass a joint resolution to waive these prohibitions on a case-by-case basis. To request such a waiver, the President shall report to Congress on (1) how the requested activity advances U.S. national security interests, (2) the status of any investigation and prosecution of individuals responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and (3) the status of human rights protections in Saudi Arabia.”[1] Here is the press release for the bill providing some background on what promoted McGovern to sponsor the bill. 

Yemen Refueling Prohibition Act — YES

Connected to H.R.643 is H.R.910, a bill which prohibits federal funds for in-flight refueling of Saudi or Saudi-led coalition aircraft(s) conducting missions as part of the ongoing war in Yemen.[2] Here is a National Peace Action Policy Briefing about ending the war in Yemen. And this is a policy briefing about ‘reclaiming’ congressional war powers. This is the press release by Congressman Lieu about the introduction of this bill to the House floor. 

Prevent USAF Engagement in Yemen – YES

A number of pieces of legislation served to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from Hostilities in Yemen. These include:

H.J.Res.37 sponsored by Rep. Khanna [D-CA-17], cosponsored by Reps. McGovern, Kennedy, Clark, Moulton, and Pressley. The legislation passed 248-177 and all MA reps voted Yea.

H.Res.274 sponsored by MA Rep. McGovern, was passed (230-188) with the support of all MA reps and provided for the consideration of S.J.Res.7.

S.J.Res.7 sponsored by Sen. Sanders [I-VT], cosponsored by both Sens. Warren and Markey, first passed the Senate 54-46, followed by the House vote 247-175 which saw all MA Reps. vote Yea EXCEPT for Rep. Clark. This legislation was vetoed by President Trump and failed to be overridden on a final Senate vote of 53-45 on May 2nd, 2019. The Presidential veto message to the Senate can be read here.

Disapproval of Defense Articles Transfers – YES

A number of joint resolutions from both the House and Senate in 2019 provided for congressional disapproval of proposed arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. These include:

H.J.Res.62 sponsored by Rep. Lieu [D-CA-33], which MA Reps. McGovern and Keating cosponsored.

S.J.Res.38 sponsored by Sen. Menendez [D-NY], which first passed the Senate 53-45, followed by the House vote 237-190, but was then vetoed by President Trump and failed to be overridden on a final Senate vote of 46-41 on July 29 2019. All MA representatives from both the House and Senate voted Yea for the resolution when presented with a vote. See a press release from Sen. Menendez on the vote to attempt to override Trump’s veto here.

S.J.Res.40 and S.J.Res.47 were also sponsored by Sen. Menendez and both passed the Senate 51-45 on June 20 2019, but there has been no movement on these pieces of legislation since.

Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability – YES

Bipartisan legislation S.398 sponsored by Sen. Menendez [D-NJ] suspends certain weapon transfers to Saudi Arabia, prohibits refueling for Saudi coalition aircraft, and imposes sanctions on those inhibiting humanitarian aid to Yemen and those involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A press release can be found here.

H.Res.472 sponsored by Rep. Speier [D-CA-14] requests the President strongly condemn Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, hold accountable individuals identified as culpable, and condemn imprisonment of and violence against journalists around the world. This resolution has 34 cosponsors including MA Rep. McGovern.

Bipartisan legislation H.R.2037, sponsored by Rep. Malinowski [D-NJ-7], calls for the Saudi government to be held accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The bill requests reports in response to the murder, identifying those responsible and sanctioning them. MA Rep. McGovern copsonsored the bill, which passed the House 405-7 with all MA Reps. except Moulton voting Yea. Here is a press release from Rep. Malinowski following the House vote.

Companion legislation S.2351 is sponsored by Sen. Coons [D-DE] and The bill also requests a report on Saudi Arabia’s gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Here is a press release on the introduction of this bill.

Linked below are several articles with updates on the war:

Saudi Arabia Is Running Out of Friends” by David Wearing 

‘I feel lucky’: millions have fled war-torn Yemen – the US has accepted 50” by Lauren Aratni

UN says Yemen conflict is worsening” by James Bay

This Vox article/video (“The US may be aiding war crimes in Yemen”) does a good job of providing some context to the civil war and the different actors involved as does this Guardian article (“Yemen civil war: the conflict explained”). 

See also this background information on Saudi Arabia and the US-Saudi relationship and this page with background infomation on Yemen. 

Sources:

[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/643 

[2] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/910

Updated August 6th, 2020