WASHINGTON - In response to today’s Senate vote on the joint resolution to direct the president to withdraw US armed forces from participating in the Saudi-led coalition’s hostilities in Yemen, the Yemen Peace Project’s director of policy and advocacy, Eric Eikenberry, issued the following statement:
“Today 44 Senators voted to rescind the blank check of support given by the United States to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen while, at the same time, reasserting Congress’ long-held but little-used war powers authorities under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. S.J.Res.54 generated an extended debate within the Senate and provoked intense, and frequently confused, pushback from the highest levels of the administration. In the three weeks following the introduction of S.J.Res.54, its opponents shifted from denying that the legislation would have any effect on the ground to fantastically inveighing that passing the measure would undermine US alliances all over the globe.
“Due to the weakness of these counterarguments and the moral and legal clarity of S.J.Res.54, the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pressed the chamber to remove the bill from consideration, a motion which narrowly passed. Though not as blatantly undemocratic as the move by House leadership to strip H.Con.Res.81 (the House of Representatives’ own Yemen-focused war powers resolution) of its privilege in November 2017, today’s motion to table served a similar function by denying Congress its constitutional right to debate the merits of US military engagement out of undue deference to the executive branch.
“Meanwhile, the debate beyond the Senate floor exposed people across the United States to both US complicity in the Saudi-led coalition’s ongoing violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen and the reality that Congress has the constitutional authority to rein in unauthorized deployments of US armed forces abroad. This broader awareness, and the ambivalence demonstrated by 44 Senators toward US involvement in Yemen’s civil war, places needed pressure on the Trump administration to engage in an actual diplomatic initiative to bring the conflict, and its resulting humanitarian catastrophe, to an end. It also sends a message to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that their actions in Yemen are becoming increasingly difficult to defend to US lawmakers, and that unconditional US backing to exploit Yemen’s conflict for their individual interests is not guaranteed.
“The Yemen Peace Project thanks Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) for their leadership on S.J.Res.54. We take seriously promises made by senators on the foreign relations committee to more closely scrutinize US military engagement in Yemen, and we look forward to supporting future legislation that will de-escalate the conflict and set the stage for Yemen’s post-war reconstruction.”