WASHINGTON: The U.S. is providing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Congress, with bipartisan support, passed a resolution calling for the U.S. to stop fueling the war in Yemen. In doing so, Congress seeks to restore the power to decide when our country goes to war.
Despite the Constitution’s War Powers Clause the U.S. has gone to war in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere without congressional approval.
In April, President Trump vetoed a Congressional resolution to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen War (Trump vetoes congressional resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen war)
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have grown uneasy with the close relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Lawmakers in both parties criticize the president for not condemning the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a Saudi living in the U.S. Last October, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, never to be seen again. U.S. intelligence agencies say that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was complicit in the killing. Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, was critical about the Saudi regime.
However, the reasons for Khashoggi even entering the Consulate in Istanbul has yet to be explained. The fact that the Saud’s may have been bringing him into a trap aside, Khashoggi was not ignorant. He knew the duplicity at hand. (Jamal Khashoggi: Journalist ‘was enticed to Istanbul consulate from Saudi embassy in DC‘)
Nonetheless, the U.S. provides billions in arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress have expressed concern about the thousands of civilians killed in air strikes. (America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016. What a bloody end to Obama’s reign )
A country on the brink of famine where people are suffering from a shortage of medical care, and food
The legal basis for providing aid to the Saudis, in violation of the wishes of Congress, is a loophole in the Arms Export Control Act which, in the event of an “emergency,” gives the president powers which the Constitution assigns to Congress.
This law, however, fails to define in any way what constitutes an “emergency.”
President Trump declared an “emergency” on May 24, to promote $8 billion in arms sales, just as he declared an “emergency” before unilaterally planning to impose tariffs on Mexico.
He declared an “emergency” to use funds to build a border wall, which Congress had rejected.
Even one of President Trump’s closest congressional allies is now ready to strip him of certain emergency powers in response to his actions to circumvent the will of Congress.
“Do away with the emergency exception,” said Sen.Lindsay Graham (R-SC). Doing so, he added, would prevent the executive branch from repeating such a move in the future. “I would not have agreed to that before, but after this maneuver by the administration, count me in.”
Graham is one of several lawmakers conferring over how to change the rules governing congressional oversight of arms sales to prevent end runs around Congress. This after Democrats and Republicans objected to the administration citing an unspecific threat from Iran to expedite more than $8 billion worth of arms sales.
“We’re talking about a more permanent fix so we can’t have it this way again,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators Graham and Menendez among others are expected to ask for a vote on 23 disapproval resolutions aimed at blocking arms sales. A bipartisan majority of senators is expected to support that effort.
Members of Congress and White House officials remain at odds over the deals’ legitimacy. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), accused the administration of creating a “phony” emergency to justify the arms sales. He declared:
“Here’s the reality. There is no emergency. It’s made up. And it’s an abuse of the law.”
The ranking Republican on the House Committee shared this view. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said that:
“The recent use of the emergency authority, in my judgment, was unfortunate. Consulting with Congress is always the better route.”
In McCaul’s view, the “emergency” seemed less than serious if it would take months or years to complete the arms sales.
Rep, Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a former Assistant Secretary of State, says:
“The administration has provided us no evidence that the Gulf countries face any substantially new threat from Iran that would justify declaring an emergency. Alternatively, these weapons, which the Saudis need to keep bombing Yemen, would even be useful if such a threat arose.
If we allow these arms sales, the effect will be to prolong a war that does not serve U.S. interests, while signaling to the Saudis that they can get away with anything.”
Congress is finally showing an interest in ending our destructive role in Yemen. A first step is to bring to an end a legal loophole which permits the executive to engage in war due to an “emergency.” The executive is not legally required to define or confirm what the emergency is.
Pearl Harbor was an emergency. Yemen is something far different.
The last thing the Framers of the Constitution had in mind was giving the executive the power to rule unilaterally. Republicans inclined to acquiesce to the assumption of executive power should remember that when Democrats control the White House in the future, that power will then be theirs.
“President Obama said in his last two State of the Union addresses that he would use orders to meet policy goals if Congress didn’t act on certain requests. – (President Obama’s use of executive orders in historical terms)”.
Those who believe in our constitution, the checks and balances and limited government therein, can hardly support ruling by “emergency.”
It is time to end such arbitrary power before both parties become accustomed to a level of executive power which the Founding Fathers thought they had brought to an end.
Lead Image: By [email protected] – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1593056