June 7, 2018

Young, Shaheen Successfully Include Yemen Legislation in Defense Bill Passed by Senate Armed Services Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) announced that the Senate’s current version of the annual defense bill includes their Yemen legislation. The bipartisan provision was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and released yesterday. Their legislation seeks to end the civil war in Yemen, protect civilians, and address the world’s largest humanitarian disaster—where eight million people are at risk of famine. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) passed the Young-Shaheen legislation on May 22, and the version of the NDAA now being considered by the full Senate includes the provision (Section 1266). 

Today, in a joint statement, Senators Young and Shaheen said, “The civil war and the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen are inflicting unacceptable damage to our national security interests and exacerbating heartbreaking human suffering. The United States must use its influence to persuade Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to pursue an urgent diplomatic solution to end the civil war. Our legislation would help do that, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to ensure this legislation is included in the final defense bill.”

Senators Young and Shaheen continued, “While encouraging our security partners to take these steps in Yemen, we continue to adamantly oppose Iran’s malign activities in Yemen. The longer this war continues and the worse the humanitarian crisis grows, the more opportunities Tehran will have to undermine our interests in the region.  However, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should understand that an attack on the port of Hudaydah—which is so vital to the prevention of famine in Yemen—would incite unprecedented additional opposition in Congress to Saudi-led coalition activities in Yemen.” 

The legislation requires the Secretary of State to certify that the Government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking:

1)      Efforts to end the civil war.

2)      Measures to increase access for Yemenis to food, fuel, and medicine. This certification requirement specifically mentions the port of Hudaydah, given the importance of the port to humanitarian assistance. 

3)      Steps to reduce unnecessary delays in humanitarian shipments.

4)      Actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.  

If the Secretary of State cannot make these repeated, written, and unclassified certifications, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions exclusively focused on the civil war. The legislation includes a national security waiver the administration could utilize. However, that waiver could only be utilized after the administration first identifies in writing why the certification cannot be made and what steps the administration plans to take to bring the Saudi Government into compliance. The version of the bill passed by SFRC and SASC also includes a detailed requirement for Yemen-related briefings to Congress. 

Senators Young and Shaheen are members of SFRC, and Senator Shaheen is also a member of SASC.