The unlikely alliance of progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and constitutional conservative Sen.. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has presented the Senate with an unprecedented opportunity to end the unauthorized U.S. involvement on the ill-advised Saudi Arabia-led side of the civil war in Yemen. The senators introduced legislation last week to stop the United States from continuing to take sides in a civil war which has plunged millions of Yemenis into starvation and undermines America’s security.
Unlike most measures in Congress that expire without ever being considered, this resolution invokes the War Powers Resolution, affording it a special “privileged” status. Under this 1973 law, the full Senate is required to consider the resolution on the floor in the coming days. Every senator will soon have to decide whether they support continuing America’s role in this unauthorized and counterproductive war.
Seldom does Congress vote on war and peace, even though the overwhelming majority of the American people want their elected representatives to do so. According to a recent poll, half of U.S.voters said they would be less likely to vote for their congressional representatives if he or she did not act to withdraw the U.S. from conflicts abroad, such as Yemen. Meanwhile, a super-majority of U.S. voters oppose U.S. military involvement overseas absent a formal authorization from Congress. In short, they support the balance of powers established in the Constitution.
It is clear that U.S. participation in the Yemen War contravenes our laws. President Donald Trump is failing to uphold the War Powers Resolution requirement that Congress has to authorize any long-term military commitments made by the United States. President Barack Obama also failed to uphold this law when he initiated U.S. military support for the Saudi side in 2015.
The Trump administration cites the 2001 congressional authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, passed in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as the legal justification for a small contingent of U.S. special operations forces to target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula elements in Yemen. AQAP’s ranks are growing from the instability and horrors of continued Saudi bombing of Yemen’s Houthis. Even worse, with Yemenis blaming Washington for its complicity in the bombing and starvation of civilians, our ability to play a constructive role in the region is undermined for years to come.