Rep. Jim Costa has thrown his weight behind a House joint resolution authored by fellow California congressman Ro Khanna that could lead to an expedited withdrawal of U.S. troops from Yemen, where civil war and human rights violations rage.
The move comes after more than a month of criticism from news media, fellow Democrats including Khanna and even a mobile billboard that accuses Costa of supporting genocide due to his decision to support a farm bill with a Republican-added provision that barred the previous Congress from taking up any Yemen legislation.
Costa said at the time and repeated Wednesday that he supported the farm bill due to the agricultural needs of his district, which stretches from Fresno to Merced. He accused House Republicans of attempting to play political games over Yemen, and added that he was confident Democrats could address the issue in a much more comprehensive way – such as Khanna’s legislation.
“The main thing here is that we do what’s right, and I’ve always tried to do that,” Costa said. “This is public policy that reflects American values.”
Costa was one of 86 co-sponsors on Khanna’s bill, H. J. Res. 37. The legislation cites both the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act in support of Congress’ ability to withdraw troops in areas in which war has not been declared by the United States. It intends to end U.S. aid to Saudi-supported forces in Yemen.
Costa listened to testimony and interviewed witnesses Wednesday during the first hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he recently rejoined. He was among the 25 yes votes to move the legislation along with no amendments. He said he expected the resolution to hit the House floor this week.
As a joint resolution, Costa added, the Republican-controlled Senate must take up the matter within a few weeks should it pass the House.
Costa said the civil war had become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the latter of which he said had committed various atrocities including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Congress will also look to assist the United Nations further in humanitarian efforts in Yemen, Costa said.
A billboard attacking the congressman for his perceived stance on Yemen has been driving across the central San Joaquin Valley for almost two weeks. It was paid for by Blue America PAC, a progressive group ran by former record executive Howie Klein, of Los Angeles.
An attempt to reach Klein by phone was not successful.
The billboard claims that a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen, and that the blood of these deaths is on the hands of Costa and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, due to their House votes.
Costa said he his offices had received calls from constituents regarding Yemen and his votes, to which he told them not to be misled by the billboard and promised swift action.
“With all due respect, (the critics) are wrong,” Costa said. “They were wrong in December, they were wrong last week when I co-sponsored this resolution and they were wrong today by my vote.”
Other criticism included references to substantial political contributions from the oil and gas industry, which would presumably want to limit any strain between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
Costa said he “shared the passion” of those attacking him on Yemen, but they need to understand that the Democrats as a minority could not do anything about it in December.
Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics