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House rejects Gaetz resolution to remove US troops from Somalia

Gaetz says he may consider resolution on Niger

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Somali immigrant, was among 50 Democrats who backed the Gaetz resolution.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Somali immigrant, was among 50 Democrats who backed the Gaetz resolution. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House rejected on Thursday a resolution that would require the White House to remove hundreds of U.S. troops deployed in Somalia as part of counterterrorism efforts.

Lawmakers voted 102-321 against the concurrent resolution from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that would require the president to withdraw the forces within one year of enactment. 

The House pushed the vote on the resolution back to Thursday after earlier this week raising the prospect that it could be part of a Wednesday agenda that had Republican leaders scrambling for votes for a debt ceiling bill. Gaetz was one of the holdouts on that bill, and said consideration of his resolution wouldn’t affect that vote.

Gaetz has been a thorn in the side of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., since the beginning of the 118th Congress. Along with two co-sponsors of his Somalia resolution — Reps. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn, and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. — he was among the Republican opponents of the debt ceiling bill the House passed in a 217-215 vote. 

In January, Gaetz was one of several Republicans who withheld support even in the final vote that gave McCarthy the speaker’s gavel. 

Gaetz’s Somalia measure was the second time he’s taken up floor time for legislation given no chance of passage. In forcing the floor vote, he relied on a provision of the 1973 War Powers Resolution that permits expedited votes on privileged resolutions to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from conflict zones. Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, and George Santos of New York were co-sponsors.

Gaetz used a similar privilege last month to get a House vote on a resolution that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria to combat the Islamic State. The House rejected that effort, 103-321, with 56 Democrats joining the backers of that plan. 

And the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved yet another Gaetz measure in order to close off his opportunity to force another floor vote.  That resolution would direct the Pentagon to transmit to the House any plans for current or future military assistance to Ukraine related to the deployment of U.S. troops in that country.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who acted as chair for part of the markup, said that if the committee didn’t act, the bill would automatically go to the floor. “We have statutory responsibility to. The privilege ends today at the end of our vote,” Issa said.

Gaetz had only one less supporter for his Somalia measure Thursday than he got for the Syria one in March, but six fewer Democrats.

Fewer than 500 U.S. special operation forces are estimated to be in Somalia as part of a permanent troop presence to counter the al-Shabab terrorist group. They were deployed nearly a year ago by the Biden administration in a reversal of the decision by former President Donald Trump to remove the approximately 750 troops previously deployed to the Horn of Africa country.

Gaetz used the floor debate to call the resolution the second in a series about the places where Congress believes the 9/11 attacks in 2001 justify a U.S. troop presence. Putting the number of troops in Somalia around 900, he said they weren’t enough to save the country from terrorists. He said later that he may introduce a similar one on Niger.

“If what it takes to protect the 17 million people in Somalia is 900 U.S. troops forever, I don’t have high hopes for them,” he said on the floor. “I have far more confidence in the strategy that Congresswoman Omar laid out, which was the Somali government working to create some sense of national identity among Somali clans. And no one has made a compelling argument that we are essential to that process.”

House Foreign Affairs ranking member Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., opposed the resolution, saying it doesn’t end hostilities in the region and prevents crucial cooperation. He said local forces have made steady gains against al-Shabab in recent years. “This resolution would roll back some of the gains that have been made,” he said.

“Our forces on the ground in Somalia are there to provide security training and intelligence support,” he said. “No American has been killed in Somalia in over four years.”

Rep. John James, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee, joined the opposition but acknowledged that “war should never be on autopilot or open-ended.” He said allowing terrorists to fill vacuums of influence is a threat to the U.S.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Somali immigrant, backed the resolution but regretted that it didn’t address the “expansive” use of a 2001 authorization to use military force against terrorism. “I and many Somali Americans support this resolution,” she said. 

Mark Burnett contributed to this report.

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