On Tuesday night, President Trump vetoed Senate Joint Resolution 7, a groundbreaking piece of legislation passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress calling for an end to US military support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. The justification Trump provides for this veto has extremely dangerous implications that Congress must urgently address.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the president’s veto statement is an apparent effort to rewrite the text of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, upon which S.J.Res.7 is based. In the statement, Trump backs up his erroneous assertion that “the United States is not engaged in hostilities in or affecting Yemen” by claiming that “there are no United States military personnel in Yemen commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi‑led coalition against the Houthis in hostilities in or affecting Yemen.” That line includes an exact, but partial, quote from the 1973 WPR’s section setting out exactly what it means to introduce US forces into hostilities. Here’s the original passage, with the parts Trump left out in bold:
For purposes of this chapter, the term “introduction of United States Armed Forces” includes the assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities.
Earlier in the statement, Trump fumes that S.J.Res.7 is a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities,” but here we see the president directly attacking the existential constitutional authority of Congress: to make laws. In this deliberate misstatement of the War Powers Resolution, Trump seems to admit by omission that the US is indeed assisting with the coordination of the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign (something US officials have denied repeatedly despite evidence to the contrary), and providing logistical assistance to coalition forces.
In the coming days, Congress will have an opportunity to override the president’s veto. Members of both houses can also act to rein in the administration’s unlawful warmaking by passing additional legislation to curtail military assistance and arms sales to the coalition. This assistance has perpetuated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, undermined diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, heightened tensions that could easily lead to a wider war in the region, and exposed US personnel to prosecution for aiding and abetting the Saudi-led coalition’s war crimes. The administration has demonstrated time and again its unwillingness to conduct constructive foreign policy within the bounds of the law; it is long past time for Congress to take decisive action.