VIDEO: On Senate Floor Young Continues Efforts to Address Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) spoke on the Senate floor today about the path forward in Yemen and his legislation with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), S.J.Res.55, to pressure the Saudi government to end the civil war in Yemen and to take additional steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there. Senator Young thanked Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Corker for his commitment to markup Yemen legislation in the committee next month.
“As many know, over the last year, I have focused persistently on the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” said Senator Young. “Given the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and our national security interests there, I appreciate Chairman Corker’s commitment today to markup Yemen legislation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April. Based on this reasoning, I plan to oppose the Sanders-Lee-Murphy legislation today. Instead, I will support legislation like ours that could become law, would provide the administration leverage, and would actually result in real change in Yemen.”
During his remarks on the Senate floor, Young referenced a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing he convened last week, entitled “Why Food Security Matters.” That hearing underscored the connection between food crises—like the one in Yemen—and instability, terrorism, and conflict.
World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley and others have praised Senator Young’s efforts related to Yemen.
Click here or the image below to watch Senator Young’s floor speech.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, in light of the vote later today on the Sanders-Lee-Murphy legislation (Senate Joint Resolution 54), I rise today to discuss the situation in Yemen and the path forward.
As many know, over the last year, I have focused persistently on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
I’ve used letters to the administration and the Saudi government, an administration nomination, hearings, a Senate resolution, and countless meetings, briefings and phone calls with senior administration officials, Saudi officials, and leaders of the NGO community.
My goal has been to address impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
We’ve seen some progress.
The USAID-funded, World Food Programme cranes have been delivered, and the Red Sea Ports are open.
According to the United Nations, since the ports were opened, we’ve seen more than 884,000 metric tons of food and more than 410,000 metric tons of fuel delivered to the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef alone.
That has saved many lives.
While we’ve seen progress on impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and commercial and humanitarian vessels have been offloading their life-saving cargo, problems persist and the humanitarian situation remains dire.
As highlighted by the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement on Yemen on March 15, there are over 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen—3.4 million more than last year.
This is the world’s largest humanitarian disaster, and almost 18 million people are food insecure. And the risk of famine persists.
The Saudi-led coalition continues to impose unacceptable delays on ships carrying food and fuel. According to United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), the Saudi-led coalition caused 5.9 days of additional delay in February on ships going to Hodeidah and Saleef. Those delays continue this month.
In addition to the heartbreaking humanitarian element, this humanitarian crisis creates national security threats and facilitates radicalization.
Last week, I chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on the connection between food insecurity and instability or radicalization.
That hearing demonstrated that there is now a strong evidentiary and scholarly basis to conclude that it is in America’s clear national security interests to address food insecurity.
As retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Castellaw put it during the hearing, “food crises [can] grow terrorists.”
The longer the civil war persists, the worse the humanitarian crisis will grow. This will radicalize more people and provide more opportunities to Iran to undermine our national security interests and those of our partners.
Consistent with our humanitarian principles and our national security interest, I believe we must continue to pursue two primary objectives:
First, address the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen; and
Second, press all parties to end the civil war.
Significant and durable progress in addressing the humanitarian crisis requires an end to the civil war.
The question is how best to achieve these goals.
I share Senator Lee’s general goal of Congress fulfilling its Article 1 responsibilities related to War Powers.
That’s why I introduced an authorization for use of military force last year.
That’s why I have been working with Chairman Corker, Senator Kaine, and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to break a logjam in negotiations and finalize an updated authorization for use of military force against Islamist terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.
That’s why I am pleased that Chairman Corker has assured me that the Foreign Relations Committee will consider a new authorization for use of military force against ISIS, al Qaeda, and other groups in April.
But, with respect to Yemen, I believe S.J.Res. 54 is the wrong approach.
It was not considered and marked up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It will never become law because the administration has threatened to veto it.
And even if Congress were able to override a veto and S.J.Res.54 became law, it would fail to achieve its stated objective because the administration rejects the premise of the Sanders-Lee legislation related to ‘hostilities’ in Yemen.
Rather than just criticizing S.J.Res.54, I wanted to play a more constructive role.
I wanted to introduce legislation that would provide leverage to pressure the Saudis to 1) end the civil war in Yemen and 2) improve the humanitarian situation.
At the same time, we must acknowledge and respond to Iran’s malign behavior in Yemen, as well as the presence in Yemen of ISIS and AQAP.
We must also recognize Saudi Arabia’s legitimate right to not have ballistic missiles launched into its cities.
I wanted to develop a bipartisan compromise that could pass out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, be passed by both chambers, and signed by the President.
I wanted to develop legislation that would actually further its stated purpose and our objectives in Yemen—ending the civil war and addressing the humanitarian crisis.
That is why I and Senator Shaheen introduced Senate Joint Resolution 55 on March 8.
Since then, we have worked with the committee, members from both parties, and the administration to further refine our legislation. We have made several substantive refinements to build support for our bill.
The current version of our legislation would require the Department of State to certify in an unclassified and written report that Saudi Arabia is undertaking:
(1) an urgent and good faith effort to conduct diplomatic negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen;
(2) appropriate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by increasing access for Yemenis to food, fuel, and medicine, including through Yemen’s Red Sea ports, the airport in Sana’a, and external border crossings with Saudi Arabia; and
(3) demonstrable action to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from its military operations in Yemen, including by complying with applicable agreements and laws regulating the use of cluster munitions and other defense articles and services purchased or transferred from the United States.
If the Department of State can’t make that certification, then U.S. air refueling for missions exclusively focused on the civil war would be prohibited.
Given the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and our national security interests there, I appreciate Chairman Corker’s commitment today to markup Yemen legislation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April.
Based on this reasoning, I plan to oppose the Sanders-Lee-Murphy legislation today.
Instead, I will support legislation like ours that could become law, would provide the administration leverage, and would actually result in real change in Yemen.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
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