These Dem Senators Want Biden To Reinstate Houthi Foreign Terror Designation—After Praising Its Removal As 'Welcome'

Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown signed onto letter from left-wing lawmakers trashing 'hasty designation of Houthi rebels'

L: Sen. Sherrod Brown (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) R: Sen. Bob Casey (Mark Makela/Getty Images)
January 19, 2024

In 2021, Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) praised President Joe Biden for his "positive" and "welcome" decision to pull the Houthis' terror designation. Now, as the Iran-backed rebels wreak havoc in the Middle East, Casey and Brown are pushing Biden to crack down on the group.

Casey and Brown signed on to a May 2021 letter led by left-wing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) that lauded Biden for taking "several positive steps to address the conflict in Yemen." Included among those steps was Biden's decision to reverse "the Trump administration's hasty designation of Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization" and restore the flow of taxpayer-funded aid to northern Yemen. "These are welcome steps," the letter said.

Years later, Casey and Brown are backing away from that position, a move that comes as the Houthis terrorize Western military and commercial ships in the Red Sea in a show of support for Hamas's war on Israel. Those attacks, Casey and Brown told Jewish Insider, reflect the need for Biden to combat Iran by again labeling the Houthis a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Missing from the lawmakers' remarks was any mention of their past support to remove the designation.

The flip-flop suggests Casey and Brown are working to distance themselves from Biden as they approach difficult reelection bids in swing states where the president is unpopular. In Casey's Pennsylvania, just 32 percent of voters approve of Biden, compared to just 31 percent in Ohio.

For Pennsylvania Republican Dave McCormick, who is challenging Casey, it's too late for the Democrat to reverse course on the Houthis.

"This is classic, weak Bob Casey," McCormick communications director Elizabeth Gregory told the Washington Free Beacon. "He never should have rubber stamped Bidien's removal of the Houthis from the terrorist list in the first place."

"It's too late now to flip flop," Gregory continued. "The damage has already been done."

Both Casey and Brown acknowledged that their position on the issue has changed. Casey told the Free Beacon that the terrorist designation is now "appropriate," given that the "Houthis have significantly escalated their attacks against American interests." A Brown spokesman echoed Casey's rhetoric, saying it's "clear that the FTO designation is now an appropriate step." Neither senator addressed whether Biden's decision to remove the designation contributed to the attacks.

Shortly after taking office in 2021, Biden removed the Houthis' Foreign Terrorist Organization tag as a gesture of good will toward Iran as it pursued diplomacy with the Islamic nation. That designation criminalizes support for the terror group and forces U.S. banks to seize its funds.

Biden did move to reapply sanctions on the Houthis earlier this week, though he did so under a weaker federal statute, placing the terror group on the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list effective Feb. 16. The designation does not criminalize support for the Houthis or force American banks to seize their assets, current and former U.S. officials told the Free Beacon.

"By refusing to label the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Biden is preventing several important policies to keep Americans safe and the Houthis weaker," said Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department adviser on Iran. "Returning the Houthis to the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list is only a half-measure, one that senior administration officials immediately conceded they could rescind if the Houthis stop attacking ships."