by Kate Kizer
Last week, Congress did something unprecedented on foreign policy. For the first time since it overrode President Nixon’s veto to pass the 1973 War Powers Resolution in the wake of the Vietnam War, both the Senate and the House voted to direct the president to withdraw from an unauthorized military conflict. By passing Senate Joint Resolution 7, Congress has set up a showdown with the president that will either force the second veto of his presidency or be the first time a president has acquiesced to Congress’ assertion of its war-making authority.
After this historic victory for peace advocates and constitutionalists alike and with the war in Yemen not over, the question remains: what’s next?
The first step will be pressuring the president to sign, rather than veto, the bill. A bicameral, bipartisan group of members, including some Trump allies, is actively trying to get the president to sign the bill in light of his stated desire to end endless wars. Although unlikely, he reportedly might do just that and take the opportunity to show that he is not as beholden to the Saudi and Emirati monarchies as his previous actions imply.
Should Trump veto the legislation, as he is most likely to do, it will reinforce the perception that Trump has made the United States a client state of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Trump’s previous loyalty to these countries—as already exposed by his attempts to help cover up the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi—has provided a blank check of support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen in the face of continuing war crimes. His seeming obsession to conclude arms deals with the kingdom no matter the costs—to say nothing of Trump business interests in Saudi Arabia—has only inflamed tensions with Congress.
Trump’s fealty to these monarchies is not the only thing that should concern Congress in the face of a veto. In fact, a Trump veto sets up a choice for members of Congress that goes well beyond Yemen. It will force Congress to decide whether it believes itself to be a co-equal branch of government and if it will rebuke what would be a blatant attack on its sole authority to decide when, where, and how the United States goes to war. Overriding his veto is as much about protecting the separation of powers in the U.S. government as it is about ending the U.S. role in the war in Yemen. This should not be a partisan issue. Failing to override the president’s veto would permanently undermine Congress’ ability to determine matters of war and peace as the Constitution prescribes.
You can read the full analysis on LobeLog here.