Expectations are that the Senate War Powers vote on the Yemen War, SJ Res 54, will come up for debate and a vote next week. That may not happen if the Republican leadership gets its way, however, as many are opposed to the bill, and are trying to stall a vote.
Some leaders are arguing the issue is too “divisive,” and that the matter should be sent back to a committee for closer study. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), by contrast, endorsed the Pentagon’s argument, saying the US does so much military engagement around the world that it would be dangerous to think the War Powers Act could apply to all of it.
But of course the whole point of the War Powers Act is that it does apply to any commitment of US forces overseas. It’s just that in recent years, presidents have relied on catch-all authorizations with vague limits to join some wars, and other times simply assumed Congress wouldn’t mind, as they generally have not minded.
SJ Res 54, pushed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), is indeed the first time the US Senate has ever faced a War Powers challenge. Administration officials have conceded the main point, that they don’t have a Congressional authorization to justify their involvement in the Saudi invasion of Yemen.
That and the wording of the law ought to make the vote a relatively simple process. Administration officials, however, argue the US has sold so many weapons to Saudi Arabia that support contracts for those sales implies direct US military involvement in the war.
That argument won’t convince anybody. That’s why the Pentagon is mostly appealing to hawkish Senate leaders who are comfortable with unauthorized wars, and are more than happy to look for procedural loopholes to derail the vote.
Those wishing to contact their senators to urge them to support SJ Res. 54 should call 1 (202) 899-8938. Tentatively, the vote is still expected to happen next week.