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Reps. DeFazio, Biggs, Dingell, and Castro Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reassert Congressional War Powers, Remove U.S. Military from Unauthorized Participation in the Saudi-led War in Yemen

Nov 20, 2020
Press Release

Thursday, Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Joaquin Castro (TX-24) introduced H. Con. Res. 123, bipartisan legislation that would end unauthorized U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Despite receiving no Congressional authorization to do so, the U.S. military has been significantly assisting a Saudi-led coalition with its devastating war in Yemen since 2015. The U.S.’s participation has contributed to producing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and exposed millions to starvation, displacement, disease, and more.

“Article I of the Constitution is clear: Congress, not the Executive, has the sole authority to declare war and authorize commitment of U.S. armed forces to conflict overseas,” said Rep. DeFazio. “Unfortunately, both the Obama and Trump administrations’ unauthorized military involvement in Yemen is yet another example of presidents of both parties unlawfully committing U.S. forces to hostilities around the world. We cannot let our military become bogged down in yet another endless conflict in the Middle East—especially one that advances the dubious interests of Saudi Arabia. Our legislation would re-assert Congress’s constitutionally-granted war powers and require the Executive to receive Congressional authorization before committing U.S. military forces or resources to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.”

“We must end the U.S. government’s role in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which was never authorized by Congress and has helped enable one of the gravest humanitarian catastrophes in the world today. It is long past time that Congress assert its Constitutional war powers and work to heal the severe suffering of the Yemeni people,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro, Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “With the Trump administration’s suspension of humanitarian assistance and the worsening coronavirus pandemic, the situation in Yemen is dire and the risk of widespread famine is rising. I commend my colleagues Chairman DeFazio and Representative Dingell for leading this important effort.”

“The Constitution is clear that only Congress can declare war,” said Rep. Biggs. “We should not send U.S. military personnel to intervene in a local civil war, especially when neighboring states are attempting to dictate the outcome of that internal conflict. We should stop our foreign adventurism and end our military participation in other nations’ internal conflicts.”

“The United States’ involvement in the Yemen conflict was never authorized by Congress and has exacerbated the catastrophic humanitarian crisis facing the country,” said Rep. Dingell. “This resolution will allow Congress to reassert its Constitutional authority and end U.S. participation for the Yemen conflict, which does not serve the interests of the United States, our regional partners, or the Yemeni people.”

“This bipartisan concurrent resolution—which does not need a signature from the president—sends a clear signal that Trump’s continuation of this unauthorized war remains illegal and unconstitutional,” said Erik Sperling, executive director of the pro-restraint advocacy organization Just Foreign Policy. “The Framers of our Constitution delegated this power exclusively to Congress, and as George Washington stated, ‘no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken’ without Congressional authorization. Together with the passage of a concurrent Iran war powers resolution earlier this year, 2020 is becoming a turning point for Congress reasserting its Constitutional power over war and peace.”  

“It’s welcome news that as the outgoing Trump Administration plots to block peace in Yemen by designating Houthis a “foreign terrorist organization. Representatives DeFazio, Biggs, Dingell, and Castro are invoking the war powers resolution to end U.S. military participation in the Saudi-UAE led war on Yemen. After nearly six years of airstrikes and blockade, there are now 14 million Yemenis barreling towards a catastrophic famine. The incoming Biden Administration must listen to this bipartisan message from lawmakers and help bring this brutal war to an end,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation.

"This bipartisan effort shows that Congress and the American people continue to demand an immediate end to U.S. participation in the war on Yemen," said Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel for Demand Progress. "The introduction of this resolution now is a rejection of the latest moves by Pompeo and the Gulf regimes to escalate the crisis by blocking aid from getting to innocent Yemenis. This War Powers Resolution also sends a clear message to President-elect Biden that he should commit to ending our participation in this nightmare on day one."

H. Con. Res. 123 would invoke existing law under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which allows for a concurrent resolution to pass with a simple majority in both chambers of Congress in order to withdraw unauthorized U.S. military forces from hostilities. Congress created this mechanism explicitly to prevent a repeat of the unauthorized presidential overreach that occurred during the Vietnam War.

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Francis Rooney (FL-16), and Matt Gaetz (FL-01).

The legislation has been endorsed by Just Foreign Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Demand Progress, BringOurTroopsHome.US, Peace Action, Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy, FreedomWorks, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Yemeni Alliance Committee, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Action Corps, Churches for Middle East Peace, Concerned Veterans for America, and American Friends Service Committee.