US-Led Airstrikes in Yemen Prompt Bipartisan Backlash Over Constitutional Violations

WASHINGTON – Last week, airstrikes were conducted in Yemen against Houthi militants by the United States and the United Kingdom. The Houthis, who are aligned with Iran and gained prominence during the ongoing civil war in Yemen, had been repeatedly attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea. President Joe Biden stated that these strikes were necessary to protect US personnel, civilian mariners, and trade, as well as to safeguard freedom of navigation. However, US officials have confirmed that the airstrikes left much of the Houthis’ military capabilities intact.

The airstrikes have brought together both Republicans and Democrats in expressing concern over the prospect of a broader regional conflict. Lawmakers from both parties have condemned the airstrikes for lacking prior authorization from Congress, which holds the constitutional power to declare war. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, called it an “unacceptable violation of the Constitution.” Republican Congressman Chip Roy questioned the authority under which the attacks were carried out.

The airstrikes in Yemen have raised questions about the unilateral use of force by the president without congressional approval. The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, sought to establish restrictions on the president’s use of military force without congressional authorization. However, past presidents have tested and circumvented this resolution, often interpreting the term “hostilities” narrowly to justify their actions.

The current airstrikes in Yemen highlight the ongoing armed conflict and the need to examine whether it complies with the War Powers Resolution. The Biden administration has not provided a clear explanation of its legal rationale for engaging in military actions without congressional authorization. The administration’s reported reasoning for the strikes includes self-defense and protection of US citizens and vessels. However, skepticism remains about the effectiveness of these strikes in deterring future attacks by the Houthis.

The lack of clear guidelines and enforcement mechanisms in the War Powers Resolution has allowed for executive branch interpretations that may serve its own interests. Congress has been relatively quiet in asserting its constitutional responsibilities, and there is a need for greater scrutiny and action from lawmakers. If Congress does not want continued military operations in Yemen, it has the power to defund such operations. However, this approach would require a reversal of the presumption that Congress will declare war.

The airstrikes in Yemen have sparked a debate about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches when it comes to military actions. The issue of presidential use of force without congressional approval has long been a contentious one, and it remains a challenge to determine the extent of the War Powers Resolution’s effectiveness in constraining executive actions.