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Congress passes 'historic' bill to end US role in Yemen war, setting up showdown with Trump

US president has vowed to veto resolution, passed in House and Senate, regardless of its bipartisan support
Ongoing war in Yemen has pushed millions of people to brink of famine (Reuters/File photo)

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution that seeks to end American military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a historic vote that was welcomed by US lawmakers and human rights advocates.

The House voted 247-175 in favour of the resolution on Thursday, only weeks after it was passed in the US Senate.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who introduced the bill in the upper house last month, took to Twitter to celebrate the bill's passing, calling it "a clear stand against war and famine".

"This is just the beginning of a national debate over when and where we go to war and Congress's authority over those interventions," Sanders said.

The resolution, various iterations of which have been voted on in both the House and Senate since last year, seeks to end US military involvement in the war in Yemen that has not received prior authorisation from Congress.

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That restriction falls under the US War Powers Act of 1973, which seeks to rein in where and when US forces are involved in military conflicts.

Trump poised to veto

The resolution's passing sets up a showdown with US President Donald Trump, who must give it his stamp of approval before it can come into effect.

However, Trump has already vowed to veto the legislation, as his administration insists that US support for Saudi-led forces in Yemen must continue.

'This is just the beginning of a national debate over when and where we go to war'

- US Senator Bernie Sanders

Last month, the president's office described Congress's efforts as "flawed".

It said the bipartisan resolution raised "serious constitutional concerns" as it seeks to override Trump's ability to make decisions "as commander-in-chief".

The administration also said passing such a motion would harm Washington's relations with its allies, as well as the US's ability to "prevent the spread of violent extremist organisations".

Despite that, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, who has been at the forefront of the efforts to end Washington's involvement in Yemen, said on Thursday he was "hopeful that the president will sign this legislation".

Speaking alongside Sanders during a news conference after the House vote, Khanna said supporters of the bill planned to send a bipartisan letter to the president requesting a sit-down to discuss the resolution.

Sanders, who reiterated his call for Trump to sign the "historic legislation", added that the US Constitution gives Congress - and not the president - the responsibility and power to declare war.

"Today the Congress says we are taking that responsibility back, not just in Yemen, but in the future as well," Sanders said.

'American complicity'

The vote comes amid heightened pressure on the Trump administration to end its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen in the aftermath of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched the war in Yemen in 2015 to root out the country's Houthi rebels and restore the country's Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, to power.

Saudi Arabia would end Yemen war without US support, experts say
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The ongoing conflict has pushed Yemen into a dire humanitarian crisis, with millions of people facing famine and disease and thousands killed.

Despite continued calls to end its support for the Saudi-led coalition, the US continues to provide it with intelligence sharing, logistics support and other training.

Experts say that without US backing, Saudi Arabia would be forced to end its war effort in Yemen.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobby group that has championed the bill, applauded its passing, with Kate Gould, the group's legislative director for Middle East policy, brushing off Trump's promised veto.

"The grassroots movement that propelled this landmark legislation through Congress has generated momentum that can't be stopped by the president's anticipated veto, and it won't stop until American complicity in the world's largest humanitarian crisis ends," Gould said.

However, if Trump blocks the Yemen resolution, as he is expected to do, it would have to gain the support of two-thirds of US senators in order to overcome the president's veto.

The US Senate passed the bill in a close 54-46 vote on 13 March, far from that required two-thirds majority.

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