There are two things you never let your children see. One is sausage being made and the other is policy. The House & Senate War Powers Resolutions were complicated AF so most journalists & politicians weren’t able to explain half of it.
For the wonkiest of wonks here is some information about the 2 separate War Power Acts Resolutions to end the U.S. support to the Saudi-lead war reported in the news all week.
–War Powers Act History—
The War Powers Act was passed forty-five years ago to reassert Congressional authority to got to war as per Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution requiring Congress to give the President the power to go to war. It passed overriding a veto by President Nixon giving us some insight into the growing Imperial Presidency we saw with George W. Bush in the Afghan and Iraq Wars.
The U.S. Congress hasn’t adhered to the Constitution’s requirement since 1942. Truman ignored it taking the U.S. into war with North Korea, Congress never declared war in Vietnam. President Johnson used the Tonkin Resolutions to use military force. Each President from Johnson to Trump have worked most often with Authorization of the Use of Military Force commonly know at AUMFs.
The war in Yemen started in March of 2015 and was never authorized by Congress. The U.S. has been giving military aid, refueling of jets and logistical support. President Obama’s, deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes wrote in his book that the U.S. decided to support Saudi Arabia to get their support for the Iran Deal that was controversial.
—Senate and House War Power Act Resolution bills—
The Bills heavily debated this past month were sponsored by Senators Sanders, Murphy and Lee. The Senate’s was a Joint Resolution number 54 (referred to SJRes54) and passed the Senate 56-41. The type of Bill was a ‘Joint Resolution’.
Even if the House was able to vote on a Bill they would not have had enough time required in 15 days to cure a ‘Senate Joint Resolution’ making it impossible. So Rep Ro Khanna who tried on November 12 to pass a Bill that was a Concurrent Resolution (HConRes138) had no choice but to try another ‘Concurrent Resolution’ to have it before the House before the 115th Congress adjourned on 12/21.
Ro Khanna was ready with another Concurrent Resolution #HConRes142 which could expedite procedures in the House and make it to the House Floor for a vote. The fireworks started when Speaker Paul Ryan used the Farm Bill that was up for vote to put forward a Rule making Resolution that prohibited any passage of any War Powers Act. On Tuesday night the Rules Committee approved it and before anyone in the press was aware it was voted on and passed by 206 – 203 stopping any hope of a War Power Resolution that Rep Ro Khanna and 93 cosponors where ready to push through.
Let’s say Ro’s Bill had been able to get to the Floor without Speaker Ryan’s crazy move by putting a Military Bill restriction in a Farm Bill. The House’s and Senate’s would be two different kinds of Bills, a ‘Joint Resolution’ from the Senate and a ‘Concurrent Resolution’ from the House. They would be incompatible types of Bills that would not be considered for reconciliation by the Joint Committee and sent to the President for signing or veto.
Most Bills start in one Chamber or another and then get hammered out in Joint Committee and sent to the Prez. There are not two different Bills figured out in Joint Committee. Joint Committee with made up of members of the House and Senate and take the versions passed by the two Chambers and “reconcile” them before sending them to the Presidents desk
I had known most of this over the past week but learned nuances throughout. I now wanted to get into all this because there were a lot of moving parts and people interested in “what the fuck” happened this week without wanting to call Ro Khanna’s office, talk with lobbyists and have had the brain damage of being a former elected official like I am and did.
It’s almost impossible to find Journalist or Congresspersons who would have known how hard it is to make anything like this happen to keep pressure on the President and Defense Department for a passage of a Bill to bring relief to Yemen.
To those who worried the Resolution had “loopholes” because the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force still allowed for the U.S. to go after Al Qaeda in Yemen here are a couple of points to consider:
1. It’s called a carve -out not a ‘loophole’ and carve-outs are what Congresspersons used to get more support from Conservative Democrats and Republicans for the votes needed to pass a Bill. You need 219 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate. Sixty-seven for a veto proof bill in the Senate so the President can’t stop it.
2. Al Qaeda is the sworn enemy of the Houthis and the Saudis are supporting Al Qaeda so there is less likelihood of a bombing of Al Qaeda by the U.S. There was some when AQ bombed a Fed Ex airplane but Saudis are running the attacks in Yemen for the most part against the Houthis .
3. You can’t put into a War Powers Act anything stopping the sale of arms to the Saudis. It needs separate Legislation.
4. There was an amendment that past to be put into SJRes54 to stop refueling of Saudi jets today. So amendment were used and voted.
I find this to be an important take away. If you remember Bernie and Ro Khanna had a while ago introduced a Bill to force Companies with employees that were on Social Services like Food Stamps to pay more in taxes to cover the Government for subsidizing Amazon’s employees and others Companies . The politicians knew they wouldn’t get the votes needed but the threat of the Bill got Amazon and other Corporations to increase their wages to employees. It was called the Bezos Threat Bill. This is a great example of how pressure in the face of challenges are effective to bring solutions to terrible and complicated problems.
Both Bills are expected to come back in January with the new 116th Congress requiring a new set of votes with the new members, different titles, numbers and another set of compromises and problems, but for now many Yemenis’ and Humanitarian Organizations are very happy with the results and believe that it has put a lot of pressure on for the success of the Peace Talks that wrapped up on Thursday and will mitigate future aggressions.
I like solutions once and awhile; not finger pointing as we all do in politics.
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Arn Menconi Arn was a former Colorado County Commissioner, has run for both U.S. Senate and Congress. Is a Peace Activist & Foreign Policy Analyst. Follow him on Twitter @arnmenconi or www.arnmenconi.com