Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday pushed the White House to end U.S. military involvement in Yemen’s civil war, arguing it’s unconstitutional that Congress has not had a say in entering the conflict.
The two lawmakers, along with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), earlier in the day filed a joint resolution questioning U.S. support to a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in the country.
Sanders and Lee later in a press conference argued that the American intervention — which includes selling the Saudis weapons, providing limited intelligence and helping with air refueling — has never specifically been approved by Congress.
The lawmakers hope to invoked the War Powers Resolution, a federal law intended to check the president’s power to commit the country to armed conflict without Congress’s consent.
“If the president or members of Congress believe that support for this war is in U.S. interests and that we should be involved in it, then let them come before Congress, let them make their case and let the Congress vote on whether or not we stay in that war,” Sanders said.
Lee argued the legislation “is neither liberal nor conservative.”
“This is an American principle. … It’s constitutional.”
Civil war has overtaken Yemen since early 2015 when Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to the southern city of Aden.
Saudi Arabia, concerned about Iran’s support of the Houthis in a neighboring country, formed a coalition and intervened in support of Hadi.
In response, the U.S. has provided support for the Saudi campaign.
“If you look at the War Powers Act, what America is currently involved in constitutes a military action,” Sanders said.
The U.S. support in Yemen ties into a larger argument on the Trump administration’s continued use of a 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF), passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to justify a range of military actions.
Several lawmakers want the language revoked for a tailored war authorization bill, arguing the current AUMF has reached far beyond what it was meant to allow.
Lee said lawmakers must address the use of military force “conflict by conflict,” instead of a broad new bill.
The two said they would try to move the resolution through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but the committee may table it.
Should that happen, “then in fact the tabling will be a vote on the essence of what we’re talking about,” Sanders said.
“If we can establish this principle, it will be a significant departure from past foreign policy in the United States,” Sanders said.
The resolution is expected to receive pushback from the Defense Department, as prior to the legislation’s filing, the Pentagon’s acting general counsel sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a letter Tuesday criticizing it, the Huffington Post reported.