Breaking the promise he made as a candidate to treat the Saudi regime as a “pariah,” President Biden plans to go to Saudi Arabia Wednesday. While he is breaking one promise in making his trip, Biden can use his visit to keep another: to end the U.S.-enabled Saudi war on Yemen’s’ civilians. Over seven years and three presidential administrations, the U.S. has continued to enable the Saudi regime’s war on Yemen, producing what the U.N. has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
March 25 marked the seventh anniversary of the Saudi war on Yemen — an assault which has included blockade and starvation tactics. That day, our Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joined Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Peter DeFazio and Ro Khanna in announcing their intention to introduce a Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unconstitutional U.S. participation in the war.
On June 1, Bernie renewed his commitment to introduce the Yemen WPR in the Senate when Reps. DeFazio, Jayapal, and Khanna introduced the bill in the House, saying he would do so when the Senate returned from recess. The bipartisan House bill now has over 100 co-sponsors. Despite his own statements and the widespread support for the War Powers Resolution in the House, Bernie has yet to follow through on his commitment.
By introducing the Yemen War Powers Resolution before Biden goes to Saudi Arabia, Bernie can hold Biden’s feet to the fire and ensure that permanently ending the Saudi war on Yemen becomes a priority for his trip. This is a feasible goal. The current truce in the war, set to expire in early August, represents Biden’s last best chance to permanently end the war before the November election in the U.S., when Republicans likely will take the House and possibly the Senate. Once Biden completes his “reset” with the Saudi regime, Biden may have less leverage on the Saudis —and if Republicans take the House, Democrats in Congress will have less leverage with Biden.
Under Article I of the Constitution, and the War Powers Resolution of 1973, this issue ultimately belongs to Congress, not President Biden. Congress, not the President, is supposed to decide when we go to war.
If Bernie introduces the Yemen War Powers Resolution before Biden’s trip, that news will likely garner media attention and remind everyone of Yemen’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. The resolution will remind us of the U.S.’s responsibility for helping create the crisis, of the U.S.’s ability to stop it, and of the congressional commitment to enforcing Article I of the Constitution. When Bernie introduced a “resolution of disapproval” on an arms deal with Israel last year during Israel’s war in Gaza, the mere introduction of the bill produced headlines around the world which helped pressure the Biden Administration and the Israeli government to agree to a ceasefire.
By introducing the Yemen War Powers Resolution before Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Bernie can have a similar effect now, generating headlines, attention, and pressure that will help permanently end the Saudi war on Yemen and end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Congress can shut this war down for good — regardless of the state of play of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Whatever the U.S. government thinks it is getting out of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, unconstitutional war is never acceptable.