“We have to, at this moment, have a check on this president,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California and the author of the Yemen amendment. “There is no priority higher than stopping war in the Middle East and the famine in Yemen.”
The defense policy bill, he said, “is the best vehicle for us to achieve that.”
In an answer to the administration’s decision in May to declare an emergency over Iran in order to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Congress’s wishes, the House on Thursday voted 246 to 180 on a measure by Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, to block those sales. The emergency declaration infuriated lawmakers from both parties in both the House and the Senate.
Lawmakers also passed on Thursday a bipartisan measure led by Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, that would require the director of national intelligence to publicly identify the parties responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and impose sanctions on them. The Central Intelligence Agency concluded in the fall that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder. But Mr. Trump has yet to acknowledge that finding, and when grilled by lawmakers, administration officials have declined to hold the Saudi ruler responsible.
Liberal Democrats are now lobbying their members to support a strange-bedfellows amendment by Mr. Khanna, an outspoken liberal, and Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and one of Mr. Trump’s strongest House allies, that would prevent the use of funds for war with Iran, unless expressly approved by Congress. A similar amendment on the Senate side failed last month by a vote of 50 to 40. It has won the backing of strong conservatives — the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity has lobbied members to support it and announced it would score the vote — as well as a cadre of centrist Democratic freshmen with national security backgrounds.
The House will vote in the coming days on amendments that would phase out the authorization of military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and cut off all sales of surface-to-air munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the next year.
The defense policy bill has traditionally been a bipartisan exercise, but House Republicans have come out strongly against this year’s version, declaring it a partisan document, a charge Democrats on the Armed Services Committee have hotly contested.
If the bill clears the House, as early as Friday, it must still be reconciled with a Senate version that is considerably less confrontational. The House version includes a ban on using military construction funds for the president’s wall along the Mexican border, while the Senate version allocates $3.6 billion to replenish military-construction funds that the president hopes to seize for the southwestern border.