In lieu of a successful vote on a bipartisan proposal by Senators Lee and Sanders to end Congressional support for US military involvement in the Yemeni civil war, Republican leadership attached language supporting US involvement in the conflict to the 2018 farm bill. The relevant language of the attached resolution actually goes so far as to suspend the War Powers Resolution with respect to the Yemeni conflict, and to limit any debate in the House of Representatives on US support operations for Saudi Arabia in that war. On Wednesday, Representative Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, posted to his official Twitter page the following snapshot of the language from the conference report on taking up the legislation:
In other words, point six of the Conference Report serves to strip the Sanders-Lee legislation — and its partner legislation, proposed by Representatives Massie and Khanna, in the House — of its power and render null any Congressional prerogative from such legislation for ending America’s involvement in the Yemeni Civil War.
Congress has long abdicated its Constitutional responsibilities by ceding nearly all its war powers to the executive branch, and US support operations for the Saudis in the Yemeni conflict is just the latest example of this dereliction of duty. Congress never authorized such an action, nor did it enforce the 60-day threshold provided for in the War Powers Resolution. The latest action by Senate leadership to sneak such language into a voluminous piece of legislation about soy bean subsidies and crop insurance is a final abdication; Congress is ceding even its limited War Powers Resolution authority and explicitly giving the executive the carte blanche it had previously only enjoyed de facto.
Representative Massie excoriated Congressional leadership for its underhanded tactics, tweeting, “to avoid a debate on whether the US should be involved in a war in Yemen, today our leadership will trick members into suspending the provisions of the War Powers Act.”
Regardless of one’s position on US involvement in Yemen and American military support of the Saudi intervention in that war, the fact that the elected representatives of the US Congress are shrinking from their constitutional responsibility and effectively abdicating their war powers to one man is a chilling prospect. There are certainly serious implications for the geopolitics of the region at stake in the outcome of the Yemeni civil war, but the most politically effective and, indeed, legal course for prosecuting America’s involvement in that conflict is to follow the constitutional protocol that only Congress may declare war, with the executive thereafter taking on the duty of prosecuting it. The argument that US support operations do not rise to the level of “war” is contradicted both by Congress’ explicit statement of its war powers in the 1973 resolution, and the history and meaning of the constitutional definition of “war” in said context.