Turner calls for tougher action against Houthis in Yemen amid new clashes

The U.S. Navy killed multiple Houthi militants in clashes Sunday.

December 31, 2023, 11:31 AM

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called for the Biden administration to take tougher action against the Houthis after the U.S. Navy clashed with the Yemeni armed group in the Red Sea Sunday.

The Navy announced that it had killed multiple Houthi militants in clashes on Sunday after four ships attacked a merchant vessel that the military was assisting. Three of the ships were destroyed, and one fled.

"Well, what I think what's significant is the administration continues to not respond to the Houthi escalation in the area and look really to the operations that are going on in Yemen," Turner told "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

"I think the president absolutely has to look at what actions need to be taken in Yemen to be able to prevent the Houthis to continue to put commercial and military vessels at risk. The fact that president's not doing that is giving Iran a total pass and ability to operate with without consequences in the area," Turner added, noting the Houthis' ties to Iran.

Houthi militants in Yemen, with assistance from Tehran, have been attacking merchant ships in the Middle East in what they claim is an effort to halt Israel's air and ground operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The group says it is targeting ships with ties to Israel, though not all ships that have come under attack have any connection with the country.

The Pentagon has deployed several ships to the area to prevent such attacks, but President Joe Biden has been reluctant so far to respond directly to the Houthi assaults, seemingly to avoid escalating the conflict.

Karl also pressed Turner on whether the House would be able to pass legislation sending aid to Ukraine after Russia launched its latest drone and missile barrage --with Turner saying the White House hadn't provided Ukraine the necessary tools yet to help their forces make further gains against Russia.

"I think this -- a lot of this stems again from the fact that the administration is not providing the type of aid and assistance to Ukraine to be able to do the job that needs to be done. The administration's open policy is for Ukraine to be able to push Russia out of Ukraine to even to recapture Crimea, but they're not giving them the weapon systems and the capabilities to do so," Turner said.

An agreement on providing more aid, though, is still not in hand on Capitol Hill, with aid to Ukraine tied to ongoing negotiations over changes to U.S.-Mexico border security.

"Are you going to come to an agreement that will provide additional funding to Ukraine?" Karl asked.

"The funding for Ukraine issue is, as you know, is tied up in the issue of the administration's failure to address the border crisis," Turner responded. "But every time there has been on the House floor a provision to support Ukraine funding, it's been well over 300 out of 435 members who have supported. They'll continue to be supportive."

The White House has been negotiating with a bipartisan trio of senators to try to come to an agreement on border security that would win enough GOP votes to support sending billions of dollars in aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. The administration has made concessions on issues regarding asylum, but not enough progress has been made so far to get a deal over the finish line.

Still, it's unclear whether a bill that is approved in the Democratic-controlled Senate would be able to pass in the GOP-held House.

"We'll certainly have to bolster the personnel. And that's always a funding issue, but policies need to change," Turner said of the border measures. "We're going to need a border that has a barrier. We're going to have to have some controls of our border. Every sovereign nation has to control their border. This is something the administration has an opportunity to step up to the plate right now and address."