President Donald Trump used his second presidential veto on Tuesday to shoot down a bill aimed at ending U.S. involvement in the Yemen crisis.
The bill was introduced in Washington by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., among others. The legislation would have invoked the War Powers Resolution, which limits presidential authority during periods of armed conflict, to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the Yemeni Civil War. The bill passed the House by a 247–175 margin and the Senate with a 54–46 vote, but it will need a supermajority to override the president’s veto.
“We’re upset, but not surprised,” said Students for Yemen member Tyler Jager ’22. “We’ve seen how cozy the Trump administration is with the Saudi government.”
Congress passed the original War Powers Resolution in 1973 after reports emerged that then-President Richard Nixon bombed Cambodia in secret during the Vietnam War. The resolution requires that the president inform Congress he is sending U.S. troops into action within 48 hours. Troops may only be deployed for 60 days without congressional permission or a declaration of war.
Trump justified the veto in a statement on Tuesday, emphasizing that the act was “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.”
The war in Yemen originated in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, when longtime authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh handed over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. In response to Hadi’s inability to solve many of Yemen’s ongoing struggles with poverty and corruption, the country’s Shia Houthi minority rebelled against the central government in 2014.
Four years ago, several Sunni-majority Arab states under the leadership of Saudi Arabia joined the conflict in support of the Hadi government. Many of the coalition’s weapons, such as missiles and artillery guns, originated from the United States. As a result, the conflict has led to tens of thousands of deaths and “the worst famine in 100 years,” according to a United Nations report.
Murphy, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long been a vocal opponent of U.S. involvement in Yemen. Murphy was one of the original sponsors of the bill and has often spoken out on the issue, including in a Washington Post op-ed.
After Trump’s decision, Murphy decried the veto of the bill and called upon Congress to work on passing it with a veto-proof majority.
“America stands for nothing if it willingly participates in the slaughter of civilians,” Murphy tweeted on April 16. “One of the darkest days of the Trump presidency.”
The bill passed the House in the previous session, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not allow a vote in the Senate. Murphy reintroduced the bill during this session after the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Khashoggi’s death — seen as an assault on freedom of the press — prompted outrage across the world, but Trump was quick to jump to Saudi Arabia’s defense.
In a Thursday press release, Murphy vowed to continue working with legislators from both sides of the aisle in order to increase sanctions and restrict arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.
“I’ve been calling on the United States to get out of the civil war in Yemen for the last four years, and this veto won’t stop me,” Murphy said in the statement.
According to Jager, it will be difficult for legislators to gather the two-thirds majority they need in both houses to override Trump’s veto — especially in the Senate. The bill was mainly supported by Democrats, who hold 235 of the 435 House seats. The GOP has firm control of the Senate, with 53 out of 100 seats.
Jager said that Yale students and Americans as a whole have been less engaged with and knowledgeable about the Yemen crisis than other crises abroad, such as in Venezuela and Syria. He attributed this disparity to the lack of connection that many Americans feel to the Arab nation.
“We need an increase in awareness, funding, and pressure,” Jager said. “The situation on the ground is just so desperate.”
Trump first vetoed a bill in March, when he turned down a resolution to reverse his declaration of a national emergency on the Mexican-American border, a decision he made to secure funding for a border wall.
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