In a series of votes today, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives again opted to curb the Donald Trump administration’s support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen in fresh amendments tacked on to the must-pass defense authorization bill.
Why it matters: Though the Trump administration has pledged to veto the bill in its current form, the new amendments would seek to block major elements of US support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, including stalling the White House’s attempt to transfer $8 billion in weapons without approval from lawmakers and prohibiting Pentagon support for the coalition.
There’s more: Congress is also using the $733 billion bill as a conduit to tighten the reins on the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, to expand a small-scale authority to build facilities to handle a flood of Islamic State prisoners in Syria and to ensure the Pentagon can’t interpret the 2001 authorization for use of military force to commit US troops to a conflict with Iran. A fresh amendment up for consideration on the House floor also asks for an annual report on strikes against high-value terrorist targets.
The House is also cracking down on Turkey, with a provision similar to another that appeared in last year’s bill to limit Department of Defense funds for the transfer of F-35s should Ankara take delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system and expressing support for a $3.5 billion deal for the US-made Patriot system that could serve as an alternative.
Meanwhile, on the Senate side, lawmakers are asking for the Pentagon to push Saudi Arabia to pay up overdue bills for US refueling of fighter jets in the Yemen war.
What’s next: The House is currently voting on amendments before voting on the bill. Meanwhile, the Senate faces a packed calendar, including the confirmation hearing for Mark Esper to become Trump’s new defense secretary next week.
Know more: Check out Al-Monitor’s coverage of some of the Middle East highlights of the NDAA, including the Yemen refueling component.