Smith Leads Colleagues in Passing Yemen Reforms

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Smith, Khanna, O’Rourke, and Pocan made the following statements about major provisions on Yemen that House Armed Services Committee Democrats negotiated into the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA.) The bill passed the House today by a vote of 359-54.

“There is a terrible humanitarian crisis occurring in Yemen, and it deserves our attention in Washington,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “That’s why I successfully fought to include the following provisions while negotiating the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

  • Addressing U.S. in-flight refueling of Saudi-coalition aircraft: Prohibits the in-flight refueling of Saudi Arabian or Saudi-led coalition non-U.S. aircraft conducting missions in Yemen, unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen. Also requires the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the administrator of USAID to detail a humanitarian support strategy for Yemen, including efforts to coordinate civilian and military efforts; the diplomatic strategy with respect to regional partners seeking to end the civil war; and the role that humanitarian support to civilian populations plays in U.S. strategy.
  • International human rights: Requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a review to determine whether U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. partners have violated laws or internationally recognized human rights while conducting operations in Yemen, including those related to the interrogation of Yemeni citizens in prisons within Yemen.
  • U.S. strategy and involvement on Yemen: Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the U.S. strategy and activities in Yemen, including: the diplomatic and security objectives; indicators for the effectiveness of U.S. military efforts to achieve such objectives or goals; and the costs associated with the military involvement of the U.S. Armed Forces in Yemen.
  • Ex gratia payments: Extends authority for the U.S. to make ex gratia payments in Yemen for civilian casualties.

“These will be major steps promoting accountability regarding Yemen’s civil war. I am pleased that we are able to make concrete progress on this issue,” Congressman Smith added. “I strongly urge all sides of this conflict to implement a countrywide cease-fire, and work with the U.N. Special Envoy to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this violence. In Congress, we will keep fighting for transparency and accountability on Yemen. We must be willing to continue to act in the face of this growing crisis.”

“I’ve taken bold actions since coming to Congress and worked to remedy the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen being caused by the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” said Congressman Ro Khanna.“As we break for August recess, I want to make it clear to the Saudi-led coalition that Congress is watching. We find additional military hostilities in Hodeida unacceptable and such action will prompt new congressional action. We hope the Saudi-led coalition will work with Martin Griffiths to choose diplomacy over war.”

“We are participating in the war in Yemen — I’m grateful that these provisions will ensure that more Americans have a better understanding of our involvement and its consequences,” said Congressman Beto O-Rourke.

“The provisions in this bill reflect deep, bipartisan concern in Congress over the mass hunger, cholera, and poverty engulfing the country of Yemen. The Trump Administration has expanded U.S. military participation alongside the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen without Congressional authorization, aggravating the suffering of 8 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation. I look forward to Secretary Pompeo’s compliance with required reports to Congress on good-faith efforts being made by the Saudi coalition to end the war and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Should the Trump administration tolerate a renewed escalation of hostilities, such as a siege on the vital city of Hodeida, I stand ready to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to end U.S. involvement in the conflict,” said Congressman Mark Pocan.