Update (8:56 pm EST):
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night withdrew a Senate resolution to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, but vowed to work with the Biden administration and congressional colleagues to keep trying.
“Today, I withdrew from consideration by the U.S. Senate my War Powers Resolution after the Biden administration agreed to continue working with my office on ending the war in Yemen,” Sanders said in a statement.
“Let me be clear,” Sanders continued: “If we do not reach agreement, I will, along with my colleagues, bring this resolution back for a vote in the near future and do everything possible to end this horrific conflict.”
Anticipating an evening Senate vote on a resolution that, if passed, would block American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, human rights defenders on Tuesday implored lawmakers to approve the measure and end what they call the United States’ unconstitutional participation in the conflict.
“Members of Congress can’t afford to punt on this any longer, and grassroots activists won’t let them.”
“For over seven years, Americans have been providing military support and weapons for Saudi Arabia that the dictatorship has used against civilians in Yemen. Article I of the Constitution says Congress—and not the president—has the power to declare war,” wrote progressive activist Isaac Evans-Frantz, a co-leader of a national coalition against the war, in VTDigger Tuesday. “The 1973 War Powers Act further asserts Congress’ role.”
In July, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), introduced a Senate war powers resolution (WPR) after a similar measure was put forth in the House by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) the previous month. A procedural vote on the Senate resolution is scheduled for Tuesday at approximately 7:00 pm local time.
“We applaud Sen. Sanders’ move to hold a vote on this critical resolution, and encourage all senators to vote in support of the WPR,” Cavan Kharrazian, the foreign policy adviser at the advocacy group Demand Progress, said in a statement Tuesday.
Kharrazian noted that President Joe Biden “has said he is looking to work with Congress to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for siding with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in the war on Ukraine and its oil price hike for the United States.”
“The Yemen WPR provides the last clear opportunity for Biden to hold Saudi Arabia accountable on these fronts, and is a direct, measured congressional response to Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman for their human rights violations, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” he added.
The White House, however, is reportedly urging senators to vote down the resolution.
The Saudi-led intervention in support of the Yemeni government against Houthi rebels began several months after civil war broke out in the country in late 2014. According to United Nations humanitarian officials, nearly 400,000 people have died since then, and a Saudi blockade has exacerbated starvation and disease in the country of 30 million people—more than 23 million of whom required assistance in 2022.
Despite a promise to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” due to its abysmal human rights record, an initial freeze on U.S. arms sales, and a pledge to end “offensive” support for the war, the administration of President Joe Biden—who infamously fist-bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a July visit—continues to back the war while also selling the repressive kingdom billions of dollars worth of weaponry and services.
In addition to providing intelligence, logistics, refueling, search-and-rescue, and diplomatic support to the Saudi-led coalition, the United States has also conducted more than 100 airstrikes and some ground raids in Yemen as part of its 21-year, open-ended so-called War on Terror.
“When [Donald] Trump was president, Bernie and his Democratic colleagues like Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut had no problem going all-out against Trump’s support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen,” Evans-Frantz said. “With a Democrat in the White House, Congress has been abdicating its constitutional responsibility over war. Congress has competing priorities, but members of Congress can’t afford to punt on this any longer, and grassroots activists won’t let them.”
NJ residents called on @SenatorMenendez #humanrightsday in Jersey City, Montclair NJ, and NYC’s Union Square to break his silence & support the Yemen #WarPowers Resolution 🇾🇪#yemencantwait. RT to support.— Action Corps (@theactioncorps) December 12, 2022
Photo credits: Hideko Otake, NJ Peace Action pic.twitter.com/jgXKORbnmU
Indeed, hundreds of advocacy groups and activists have urged lawmakers to pass the Yemen WPR.
“We have a huge opportunity to remove unauthorized U.S. support for deadly and inhumane actions from Saudi Arabia, and Congress must act immediately,” Kharrazian asserted. “The ceasefire in Yemen expired in October, and without a renewed peace agreement, Saudi Arabia could resume its bombing campaign in Yemen with crucial, unauthorized U.S. assistance.”
“With uncertainty over what legislation will be able to pass in next year’s Congress,” he added, “this could be the last opportunity to pass the Yemen war powers resolution.”
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