“We aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it.” Those were the words of a letter co-written by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), two sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution 81.
The bipartisan resolution directs the president to end all US military participation in the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen, pointing out that Congress never once authorized such an operation and has sole authority to make such a determination.
Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in 2015, vowing to remove the Shi’ite Houthi movement from the capital city, and to reinstall former President Hadi, whose term technically expired in 2014, but who they maintain is still in power to this day.
The war has been slow going, and the amount of war crimes have been calamitous. This has raised growing concerns that US participation in it is going to fuel a backlash against America.
Lawmakers in both parties are deeply critical of Presidents Obama and Trump for their unilateral moves to ensure US involvement in the war, noting that there was no legal basis for US participation in a fight against the Houthis, and Congress never authorized such measures.
The bill does not intend to end all US military involvement in Yemen, however, and makes no mention of US military options against Yemen’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the local ISIS affiliate. It simply proscribes the end of operations in support of the sectarian war and the Saudi naval blockade.
Even such a limited bill is likely to face considerable resistance both from the president and from Congressional hawks, neither of whom favor the idea of Congress having to specifically authorize all of America’s myriad wars. Officials have in the past tried to justify the Yemen War as in some way being done to spite Iran, even though Iran’s involvement in Yemen is virtually non-existent, and the Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen is a completely different type of Shi’ites than the ones in Iran.
Recent votes to try to dial back massive US arms sales to the Saudis have failed, but have shown growing resistance to supporting the Saudi conflict. Trying to stop the US involvement in the war outright is an even bigger step, though again it remains to be seen if it can muster enough support.