WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered remarks today on the Senate Floor ahead of a vote on a war powers resolution to end direct U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Below are the Senators remarks as delivered:
“Mr. President, I rise today to again support efforts to stop U.S. direct military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts in Yemen.
I do not need to remind my colleagues what is at stake here. Each time we have considered this resolution, the situation for Yemenis is even more dire.
Now in its fourth year, this conflict has put nearly sixteen million people on the brink of starvation, including 400,000 children who are severely malnourished, displaced more than 3 million people and done nothing to increase stability or prosperity for the people of Yemen.
In fact, the longer this conflict goes on, the larger Iran’s foothold in Yemen grows and the more entrenched opposing political factions become.
In addition to the horrifying humanitarian crisis, we have also learned that U.S. coalition partners may be transferring U.S.-origin weapons to known terrorist organizations… And we’ve read alarming reports about torture and abuse in prisons throughout Yemen – both Houthi and coalition controlled.
So I will simply repeat what I have said before: it is in the interest of the United States to put as much political pressure on the parties to end this conflict as we can.
Yes, we have strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But we must find a way forward to get those relationships on a path that truly serves U.S. interests.
To be clear, the Houthis bear significant responsibility in the deterioration of the state of affairs in Yemen – and that’s without a doubt.
But we do not have diplomatic relations with the Houthis. And we certainly don’t sell them arms or provide active military support.
So Mr. President, this resolution is a good first step. But what we really need is a comprehensive approach to address our interests in the Gulf.
Along with Senators Young, Reed, Graham, Shaheen, Collins and Murphy, I introduced the comprehensive Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act.
This bill calls for a suspension of offensive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, sanctions all persons responsible for blocking humanitarian access in Yemen or supporting the Houthis in Yemen, and urges accountability for all actors in Yemen guilty of war crimes.
Finally, it also addresses some of the most reckless Saudi actions by calling for true accountability for those responsible for the murder of American resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a report on human rights in Saudi Arabia.
So, Mr. President, I support this resolution and encourage us to continue debate.
We must evaluate our relationship with these partners and find a path forward not just in Yemen but indeed the entire Gulf region that truly promotes American interests and American values. But today is the day that we can make a clear and unequivocal statement that we do not support that this continuing conflict and humanitarian disaster. There is a consequence for acting in the way that the coalition has done, in many cases clearly irresponsibly, with the reckless loss of human life. And then I hope that we can move on, to go beyond that, so we can deal with the entire region’s challenges.
I look forward to whatever is the agreement on the amendments that may be considered here. I personally would like to see this get an up-or-down-vote as a resolution. I understand there may be some amendments. Depending on what amendments are made in order, I may seek a second degree amendment at the end of the day.
I am concerned that one of these amendments that are contemplated may be well-intentioned, but also may very well be used in such a way to actually undermine the very essence of the underlying vote that we are taking. So I reserve my judgement, until that time, on that; but in the interim I urge all my colleagues to continue to support, as they did on the last vote on this question, this resolution.”