Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee are coming together over legislation in the form of a Senate resolution to remove U.S. Armed Forces involved in Saudi Arabian hostilities against Yemen — an intervention which has not been authorized by Congress, but instead by the Obama administration in 2015.
Sen. Sanders (I – VT) and Sen. Lee (R – UT) co-sponsored a Senate joint resolution, along with Sen. Murphy (D – CT). The underlying theme of the legislation is to reaffirm congressional oversight of war powers considering current U.S. support of Saudi Arabia against Houthis in Yemen, a congressional power that has diminished in lieu of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The senators see humanitarian and general Constitutional motives to restore those powers to Congress.
While it seems the resolution could be a good show of bipartisanship, and a potential opportunity for the Trump administration to end what some have dubbed an “illegal war” by the Obama administration, those who have worked on the resolution believe it could test Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership.
“This would be a pretty big defeat for him, I believe,” a congressional aide familiar with the effort told The Daily Caller Friday. “McConnell solicited a response from Pentagon to try to prevent a victory.”
“McConnell preempted the introduction of the bill by sending out a Pentagon lawyer flak analysis to every Senate office before we dropped the resolution,” the aide said. “They organized a top-secret briefing for Senate staffers on Yemen… So the prospects of obtaining a majority are very real.”
However, another prominent congressional staffer who worked closely with the resolution believes that it is not a top worry in McConnell’s senatorial agenda.
“This is probably the least threatening thing he’ll deal with. You know, I think that there are members who are more concerned with spending in general, the process about how he passed bills or the number of hours we work a week,” the staffer told The Daily Caller Friday. “I wouldn’t say that this resolution is sort of a make it or break it for him. In the grand scheme of things that challenge his authority this is definitely not a rise to the top ten or fifteen.”
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, however, worry about the resolution due to Constitutional questions and the possibility of proxy wars.
“This will raise Constitutional questions about other military conflicts that some members may not want to raise yet; also it may be a bit of a proxy fight between the Saudis and Quatar,” a prominent House aide told TheDC Friday.
The congressional staffer rebutted this cause for worry. “Let’s call it what it is – you’re talking about these foreign policy questions. Members don’t want to make decisions lightly, so yeah it’s not going to be easy. But what passes in the Senate that is going to be easy?”
Sen. Lee addressed a Senate photo exhibit from war-torn Yemen with a speech on the resolution Wednesday.
“That resolution is really simple; it would force Congress to debate and vote on our nation’s involvement in the Civil War in Yemen. Our opponents claim, they insist repeatedly and emphatic that this war is necessary for our national security,” Sen. Lee said. “Why do they fear this, why wouldn’t they want to do this? If this is so much, so obviously in our national security interest, then why not bring it up for a vote and do so now? If they can’t defend this war on the other hand, then it needs to end. We need to remove our personnel from that zone of hostilities today.”
In a similar situation, legislation surfaced but was barely defeated in June 2017 when Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) opposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “Senator Paul did a great thing when he pushed his disapproval of Saudi arms sales… And he got 47 members, which is phenomenal,” said the staffer. “I think that was only Paul, and Lee, and maybe Heller joined, but we’re in a different situation now. We’re starting with at least 40-45 in our pocket.”
There is outside support for the resolution as well. The Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy describes U.S. support of Saudi Arabia against the Houthis as “a giveaway to Saudi Arabia to allay the country’s concerns about the U.S.-Iran Deal,” and that the bill “strengthens the President’s foreign policy by providing the support of Congress and the American people for military actions.”
“For over a year, the executive branch has ignored the most basic, bipartisan efforts by Congress to obtain the legal justification for a secretive war being carried out by the United States in collaboration with Saudi Arabia,” the congressional aide told TheDC Saturday. “This is the first-ever Senate vote to end an unauthorized war in U.S. history.”
The resolution is due for a vote this week in the Senate.
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