The House voted on Thursday to cut off American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and to prevent the Trump administration from using its emergency authority to transfer munitions to the kingdom, delivering twin rebukes as Democrats sought to leave their stamp on military policy.
The votes were the opening salvo as Democrats begin an amendment blitz that could reshape Congress’s annual defense policy bill to broadly restrict the president’s war powers and serve as an indictment of the president’s foreign policy.
The bill is shaping up as the next ideological test for Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she tries to balance the interests of the freshman centrists representing Republican-leaning districts with those of her left flank, which might resist passing a military policy bill that does not reflect its liberal priorities. Some liberal members have complained about the sprawling bill’s total military spending — $733 billion — but moderates are reluctant to cut that number, which is already below President Trump’s demands and the Senate’s $750 billion.
This is coming on the heels of a bruising fight over a border spending bill in which the House’s liberal version was ultimately jettisoned for a Senate bill with few controls over how the money would be spent.
“I have people in my caucus that do not believe in muscular foreign policy and muscular national defense like I do,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill, a moderate Democrat who captured her New Jersey district from a Republican last year and is a former Navy helicopter pilot. “But the choice comes down to, in conference, the Senate version or the House version, and without strong support from the caucus, I think we’ve seen what that looks like.”
Still, liberals appeared to be heartened by the way the bill was shaping up, not just on Middle East policy but also on social matters. The House approved an amendment by Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, that would reinstate qualified transgender people to military service, reversing the president’s transgender ban. Another amendment passed on Thursday would prohibit the president, the vice president and cabinet members from contracting with the federal government, a jab at the Trump Organization’s continuing work with the federal government. Still another approved by the House would prohibitDefense Department funds from being spent at properties owned by Mr. Trump.
A measure championed by Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York, would prohibit the Pentagon from naming defense assets after someone who served or held a leadership position in the Confederacy.
But the most consequential amendments on Thursday continued Congress’s monthslong effort to intervene in the Yemen conflict and punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of the dissident Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Lawmakers voted 236 to 193 to prohibit the administration from using funds to support the Saudi-led military operations — either with munitions or with intelligence — against the Houthis in Yemen, a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians and resulted in a widespread famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Mr. Trump vetoed legislation in April that invoked the War Powers Act to cut off American military support to the campaign.
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