Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ted Lieu To The Rescue!


Yesterday, the House unanimously passed Ted Lieu's amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill that requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on whether the Saudi Arabia and its Gulf State allies are abiding by their commitments in Yemen.

You may recall that Lieu started working on this in late summer, 2016-- just about a year ago. At the time he led a bipartisan group of 64 Members of Congress in sending a letter to then-President Obama urging him to postpone the sale of new arms to Saudi Arabia.The letter raised concerns regarding the Saudi-led Coalition’s murderous impact on Yemen's civilian population. This was just a letter from the regular progressive Democrats like John Conyers, Jim McGovern, Jerry Nadler, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, Jan Schakowsky, Keith Ellison and Donna Edwards-- who would always be expected to back (and who did back) this kind of effort. It also included pretty hard-core conservative Republicans like Tom Massie (KY), Ted Yoho (FL), Mick Mulvaney (SC) and Walter Jones (NC). Lieu had already been raising similar concerns with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries John Kerry and Ash Carter and had introduced legislation to establish new guidelines for weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

What originally attracted Blue America to Lieu as a congressional candidate was his record of accomplishment in the California state Senate where he repeatedly took on cutting edge issues and did the hard and tedious work it takes to actually pass non-leadership originated legislation. And we saw that Lieu was willing to put that work in over the course of many years until he could pass his bills. Few legislators understand that but it was what made Lieu the best state senator in California and what is making him a stand out in Congress as well. After the 2016 letter to Obama, Kerry, etc, he did a new letter-- again bipartisan-- in the spring of 2017 to Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson requesting information related to the operational conduct of the Royal Saudi Air Force in Yemen. Again, all Lieu's natural allies were on board, but so were more conservative Democratic national security hawks like Seth Moulton and Adam Schiff, as well as Republicans like Walter Jones and Ted Yoho and the best of the brand new freshman class-- Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

"As you know," wrote Lieu, "the previous Administration made the decision in December 2016 to halt a planned sale of precision-guided munitions (PGM) to Saudi Arabia due to concerns over widespread civilian casualties and significant deficiencies in RSAF’s targeting capabilities. According to recent reports, however, the State Department has now reversed course and removed the suspension on these PGM sales. The possession alone of PGMs does not indicate sophisticated targeting capabilities. It is in our national security interest-- as well as that of our Saudi partners-- to ensure that the RSAF has the ability to avoid civilian casualties before the U.S. sells them any additional air-to-ground munitions."

A month later, following relatively widespread congressional concern over the mounting Saudi atrocities in Yemen, Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson with a list of commitments the Saudis were taking to improve their targeting capabilities and avoid civilian casualties. Those commitments included abiding by a No Strike List and Restricted Target List of over 33,000 targets and increasing their vetting of targets. Lieu’s amendment to the FY18 NDAA, which passed by voice vote, requires the Departments of Defense and State to submit a joint report to Congress every six months on whether the coalition is abiding by those commitments. That's what passed unanimously yesterday.

In a statement to the press, Lieu noted that "Today, we have achieved an important victory for the civilians of Yemen and for accountability in our foreign arms sales. Despite years of documentation that the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen has failed to avoid civilian casualties, this Administration has refused to answer basic questions about the coalition’s track record as it has continued selling them weapons. I am proud that the House has adopted my amendment to this year’s defense authorization bill to require basic answers and bring accountability to both the coalition in Yemen and the Administration supporting it. We must never allow arms sales to move forward-- even to U.S. allies-- if we do not have absolute confidence in our partner’s willingness and ability to avoid civilian casualties."

Goal Thermometer Blue America is primarily concerned with challengers rather than incumbents. Ted Lieu and 6 other incumbents are on our 2018 Worthy Incumbents fundraising page. You can contribute to Ted-- and any of the others-- by clicking on the ActBlue thermometer on the right. None of these candidates wound up on this list because they vote well on legislation proposed by the leadership-- though they do-- but because of their leadership abilities and their accomplishments in pushing forward a progressive agenda. This are the men and women we can't afford to lose. They are the polar opposite of the backbenchers and a welcome relief from the seat-warming do-nothings who make up the bulk of both parties in Congress.

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At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Ted Lieu is the Best! Too bad most of Congress is not like him - the USA would be in so much better shape.

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Increasingly, I respect Ted Lieu far more than most Democrats. May he continue to do what Democrats should be doing, for the nation NEEDS someone who does.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too like Lieu. But this is more symbolism than substance.
the current admin regularly ignores law. This will be one of them. What will congress do when, not if, they are not updated on time? Or what will congress do when, not if, they are lied to?

This congress? they'll do nothing. And the Saudis won't give a shit. They'll already have their shit.
And it's only Yemeni tairists anywhoo.

note: Conyers is NOT a progressive. He's Pelosi/hoyer's lapdog. Remember him spiking Kucinich's articles of impeachment (Conyers was the majority chair of the house judiciary committee at the time) on orders from Pelosi? Sure, he talks like a progressive. But he votes like Pelosi/hoyer. He's as corrupt as they come.
I'd rather he talked like a corrupt corporate whore and voted like Pramilaya Jayapal.


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