December 12, 2018

Young, Shaheen, Collins, Coons Offer Amendment to Prohibit Resumption of Refueling of Saudi Coalition Aircraft in Yemen Civil War

WASHINGTON – Today, coinciding with votes related to Senate Joint Resolution 54 (S.J.Res.54), U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced a bipartisan amendment (4080) to prohibit the resumption of U.S. air refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft engaged in the civil war in Yemen. In response to the argument that the U.S. is not engaged in hostilities in Yemen and that air refueling does not constitute “hostilities,” this amendment would explicitly make clear that the term “hostilities” in S.J.Res.54 includes U.S. air refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft.

“Our humanitarian principles and our national security interests demand that the U.S. use all available leverage to pressure all parties to support urgent and good faith negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen,” said Senator Young.

“Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for its continued pattern of bad behavior and blatant human rights violations, and if this administration won’t hold them responsible, Congress needs to step in,” said Senator Shaheen. “I am pleased to once again partner with my bipartisan colleagues to limit the United States’ support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where the population is on the verge of famine. I am disappointed by the repeated disregard of congressional efforts to ease the crisis. This was most recently demonstrated by the administration’s cynical certification to Congress which stated that Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen are in compliance with U.S. law and humanitarian interests in the region. Unfortunately, the documented rise in civilian fatalities and injuries on the ground clearly prove otherwise. I’ll continue to work across the aisle to push for a meaningful solution to alleviate the crisis and end the conflict in Yemen.” 

“The time has come to confront one of our allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, over the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has become a humanitarian disaster,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation will place further pressure on all parties to bring hostilities in Yemen to a swift end.” 

“In recent months, it has become clear that the Saudi-led coalition air campaign in Yemen has exacerbated humanitarian suffering and the ongoing civil war,” said Senator Coons. “This legislation is one of several steps the United States Senate should take, in a bipartisan way, to show Saudi leaders, and in particular, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that their behavior has consequences and that they must engage in serious diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.” 

On April 11, the same Senators introduced Senate Joint Resolution 58 (S.J.Res.58) and then worked to include a version of that legislation in the annual defense bill signed into law by President Trump. Section 1290 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-232) requires the Secretary of State to submit written, detailed, and unclassified certifications related to the efforts of the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to end the civil war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and protect civilians. If the Secretary of State cannot make these certifications, the law prohibits the U.S. from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions exclusively focused on the civil war. 

Senators Shaheen and Young wrote an op-ed calling for a credible submission from the Secretary of State. When the Secretary of State submitted a questionable certification to Congress pursuant to Section 1290, the same Senators and others wrote Secretary Pompeo and asked for a clarification.  

On November 9, following months of pressure, the administration announced the suspension of U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen. However, nothing prevents the resumption of that refueling support. The Young-Shaheen-Collins-Coons amendment would prohibit the resumption of U.S. refueling support for missions not related to al Qaeda and associated forces.  

The Young-Shaheen-Collins-Coons amendment can be found here.