With the partial U.S. government shutdown officially over, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna are renewing their efforts to pass a war powers resolution through Congress that would end American military support for the Saudi- led coalition in Yemen.
In a historic vote in December, the Senate passed Sanders’ resolution with significant bipartisan support, marking the first time the Senate has ever invoked the War Powers Act – a bill passed in the wake of the Vietnam war designed to limit the president’s military authority – to end American participation in a war.
However, then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, repeatedly refused to allow a vote on Khanna’s twin resolution in the House of Representatives, effectively killing the bill.
But since then, Democrats have taken control of the House, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled her support for the resolution, which was reintroduced by Khanna on Wednesday, and made it clear she intends to hold a vote.
I’m proud to partner with @SenSanders and others, and work to end U.S. military participation in the Saudi regime’s war in Yemen by reasserting Congress’ constitutional role on matters of war and peace. I am confident this will pass in the House when brought for a vote. pic.twitter.com/eSveO93Alw
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) January 30, 2019
“The conflict in Yemen has gone on for far too long, leaving a permanent stain on the conscience of the world,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Congress has the responsibility to provide oversight of America’s use of military force and support to international conflicts. Chairman Adam Smith and Congressman Ro Khanna are to be commended for their leadership in introducing this resolution.”
According to the U.N., Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
At least 85,000 children have died of starvation as a result of the war and experts warn that millions more are at risk of suffering the same fate if fighting continues.
Yemen – one of the world’s poorest countries – has been engulfed in war since Houthi rebels, backed to a limited extent by Iran, seized the country’s capital Sanaa in 2015.
The U.S. has played a key role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in the conflict in an effort to oust the Houthis from power and restore the country’s previous government.
The U.S. has supplied billions of dollars in high-tech weaponry that Saudi Arabia has used in the conflict and U.S. personnel have worked closely with the Saudis to assist in training, intelligence sharing, and targeting.
American warplanes have also provided aerial refueling to coalition bombers, allowing them to stay in the air for longer and strike more targets.
1. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Wardah Fadel 2.1 kg 4 months. Wardah's parents, resident in Hodeidah, came to Sanaa to hospitalize her. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
2. Yemen, midway Sana'a to Hodeidah, 13 November 2018. WFP Executive Director David Beasley visiting Yemen. Here he is having a tea in the mountains midway Sana'a to Hodeidah. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
3. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
4. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Hesham Ali Abdullah (left) and his son Ali Yakya Ali (5) who is affected by severe acute malnutrition edematous which causes an excessive amount of water fluid in the tissues. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
5. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Yemeni children waiting for screening at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital where WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
6. Yemen, Sana'a, 10 November 2018. A kid in old city Sanaa. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
The coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen has been condemned by the U.N. for indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, resulting in possible war crimes.
In addition to facing mass-starvation, the Yemeni people have been subject to a massive cholera outbreak resulting from the coalition bombing of water treatment facilities.
Sanders, Khanna, and other supporters of the war powers resolution’s have condemned American involvement in the conflict, saying it makes the U.S. complicit in perpetuating the humanitarian disaster.
Khanna has also charged his colleagues with “abdicating” their Constitutional responsibility to make decisions on war and peace, allowing the president to unilaterally decide when and where America goes to war.
Sanders’ resolution in the Senate, which is co-sponsored by Republican Mike Lee and Democrat Chris Murphy, has been referred to the Foreign Relations Committee and is guaranteed a vote within ten days because of its “privileged” status a war powers resolution.
In the previous Congress, Republican leaders in the House were able to prevent votes on Khanna’s resolution by attaching clauses de-privileging it to unrelated, popular bills including one about wolf hunting and one about agriculture.
It’s shameful that @SpeakerRyan and House Republicans denied Congress the chance to do our constitutional duty while millions of lives are at stake in Yemen. History will remember this abdication of duty. pic.twitter.com/HwURmGwjk3
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) November 14, 2018
“They know the public opinion – even in their own body – is changing and they didn’t allow us to have a fair vote,” Khanna told Democracy Now in December. “This is why people hate Congress … We’ve never seen those kinds of shenanigans with a war powers resolution.”
But with Paul Ryan out of Congress and Democrats in control of the House, supporters of the bill are optimistic it will pass and be sent to the desk of President Donald Trump.
“With the first-ever passage of a War Powers Resolution last month, the Senate said in no uncertain terms that we will not continue to have our military posture dictated by a despotic, murderous regime in Saudi Arabia,” Sanders said in a statement.
“We look forward to quickly passing this resolution … We are going to send a strong signal to the president that the U.S. Congress is prepared to play the role designed for us by the framers of the Constitution.”
Whether or not Trump would sign the resolution into law if it passes through Congress remains to be seen. Before December’s vote in the Senate, administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had urged lawmakers to reject the resolution but were ultimately rebuked.
Sanders’ resolution was initially introduced in February of 2018 and was defeated in a 55-44 vote in March of that year.
But the Senator told CBS in December that there was renewed support for the legislation after the assassination of Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi put a political spotlight on the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
More on the Subject
As lawmakers in the United States Senate prepared to vote on Sanders’ resolution in December, humanitarian officials were warning that the country is on the brink of a near-apocalyptic disaster.
“The violence will have to stop. Unless it does, this country will become a country of living ghosts,” Abeer Etefa, the Senior Spokeswoman for the United Nations World Food Program, told The Globe Post.
The continuation of the conflict is also putting enormous strain on the medical professionals and volunteers on the ground in Yemen – many of whom have not been paid in months.
“When you look at the director of the center – the head nurse – she looks malnourished herself,” Etefa said. “One of the nurses told me, ‘some days we work 24 hours and sometimes we want to sleep while standing.’”