A bipartisan group of senators has sent a letter to President Biden questioning his legal authority to launch a new war against the Houthis in Yemen and the overall strategy of the campaign.
The letter was signed by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Todd Young (R-IN). “The Constitution requires that the United States not engage in military action absent a favorable vote of Congress,” the senators wrote. “There is no current congressional authorization for offensive US military action against the Houthis.”
The senators noted that the Biden administration has acknowledged the strikes on Yemen would not deter the Houthis. President Biden recently said the bombing campaign was not working to stop Houthi attacks but vowed to continue it anyway.
“The Administration has stated that the strikes on Houthi targets to date have not and will not deter the Houthi attacks, suggesting that we are in the midst of an ongoing regional conflict that carries the risk of escalation,” the letter reads.
The senators said an argument could be made to justify strikes in defense of US commercial shipping but noted most ships transiting the Red Sea are not American. Before President Biden first bombed Yemen on January 12, the Houthis were not targeting American commercial shipping, but now they are.
“Does your administration believe there is legal rationale for a President to unilaterally direct US military action to defend ships of foreign nations?” the senators asked.
The letter asks why Biden has only submitted one notification about bombing Yemen under the 1973 War Powers Act, as there have been multiple rounds of strikes, and how the administration understands the term “self-defense” in the context of the new campaign.
Congress previously challenged the Executive Branch’s authority to wage war in Yemen by passing a War Powers Resolution in 2019 that would have ended US support for the Saudi-led war against the Houthis, but it was vetoed by then-President Trump.