On Wednesday, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in both the House and Senate announced their intention to reintroduce the War Powers Act challenge to the US participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The war was never authorized by Congress, and the challenge would require the administration to end US involvement.
The Yemen War was initially launched by the Saudis to oust a Shi’ite faction and reinstall former President Hadi, who in a US and UN-backed “vote,” won an election with no opposition in early 2012 to a two-year term as president. The term has long since expired, though the Saudis maintain he is the only legitimate ruler for Yemen.
After years of trying to reinstall him, soaring civilian death tolls and an estimated 14 million people facing starvation, many lawmakers are reluctant to keep the US seal of approval on this war. In December, the Senate passed a War Powers Act challenge against the war, but the then-leadership of the House prevented a vote on the matter, forcing them to start over with the new Congress.
That’s exactly what Congress intends to do now, with a new Democratic leadership in the House willing to allow a vote, and the Senate just having to run through the same process it did last month. This could be the first serious legal challenge to the Yemen War.
President Trump has threatened to veto any bill calling for an end to the war, but growing war weariness and anger at the Saudis over the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi have bolstered the bills, meaning a veto override is at least plausible.
Indeed, this would be one of the easiest sorts of bills to make a case for overriding a presidential veto, as the War Powers Act is explicitly about Congress blocking presidents from launching unauthorized wars. For a president to turn around and veto a bill in which Congress is pointing out he is engaged in an unauthorized war is not in keeping with the Constitution’s intentions of Congress having control over wars.
Though the War Powers Act intends to give any individual lawmaker power to bring such a challenge to a vote, the House had been using back-door rule changes to prevent such votes from taking place. With that no longer a factor, a vote seems assured.
Maximizing support for the votes is still important, however, particularly if there is to be a veto override. While there is not a timetable for the votes as of yet, those wishing to call their legislators should do so. House member’s contact information can be found here. The House version of the bill is HJ Res 37. The Senate version is SJ Res 7, and your Senators can be reached by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.