House Concurrent Resolution 81 is effectively dead, following a surprise bit of sleight of hand by the House Rules Committee. The resolution demanded an end to US involvement in the Saudi invasion of Yemen, on the grounds that such involvement was never authorized under the War Powers Act.
Under the War Powers Act, any Congressman is able to bring such a legal challenge, and is guaranteed a floor vote on the matter. The H.Con.Res. 81 challenge was offered in early October, and delayed until November 2.
November 1 rolled around, however, and House leadership quickly forced through a Rules Committee vote which changed the rules on H.Con.Res. 81, stripping it of its privileged status (which would have guaranteed a floor vote). Though the War Powers Act guarantees such a resolution privilege, the Rules Committee claimed Yemen doesn’t rise to the level of the War Powers Act applying.
One legislative aide was quick to bash the move, saying it was in “defiance of the plain text of the War Powers Resolution,” and warning that it set a “very dangerous precedent” for future challenges to illegal wars.
Instead of H.Con.Res. 81, the House leadership is going to allow an alternative “compromise” resolution on Yemen. This will allow debate on whether America’s involvement in the Yemen War is legal, but the vote will be non-binding.
Amid mounting unauthorized US wars around the world, H.Con.Res. 81 was the biggest attempt to enforce the War Powers Act to limit such conflicts. While the Rules Committee technically only stopped a single challenge this way, and the War Powers Act remains on the books, the success of this sort of chicanery means that the Congressional leadership can do the exact same thing to any future challenges.
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