55 Senators Voted to Support the Worst Humanitarian Crisis of the Past 50 Years.
In recent years, Congress has punted when it comes to its constitutional powers related to war-making. The 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Afghanistan and the 2002 one for Iraq remain on the books in their original form, applied far beyond any reasonable interpretation.
The NYT editorial board summed up the state of endless war last fall:
The United States has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11 and now has just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories. While the number of men and women deployed overseas has shrunk considerably over the past 60 years, the military’s reach has not. American forces are actively engaged not only in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen that have dominated the news, but also in Niger and Somalia, both recently the scene of deadly attacks, as well as Jordan, Thailand and elsewhere.
An additional 37,813 troops serve on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as “unknown.” The Pentagon provided no further explanation.
These endless wars are not making the US safer, and one could easily point out the myriad ways in which they are making us less safe.
Among the many military engagements making us less safe is the war in Yemen, in which the US is providing weapons and intelligence support for the Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi rebels. The UN’s aid chief has described the situation as one of the worst humanitarian crises of the past fifty years (if not the very worst). The lopsided bombing campaign has lasted since early 2015. The UN found the civilian death toll to be 5,000 last fall, but that number is likely an undercount.
A month ago, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a resolution to force the US to withdraw its support from the Saudi war effort.
Murphy forcefully made the case for the resolution on the Senate floor:
“It is time for Congress to step up and do our constitutional duty. There’s zero evidence that U.S. participation in this coalition has made things better. If we continue to support this bombing campaign, nothing will change except more people will die, except more civilians will be hit by the bombs that we help to drop, except that Al Qaeda will continue to control big portions of [Yemen],” said Murphy. “If you care about taking on Al Qaeda, taking on ISIS, then you should support debating our resolution because all of the evidence suggests that the continuation of this civil war inside Yemen is making both more powerful. By voting to stop debate, by voting to table this motion and refrain from proceeding to a conversation about this topic, we are signaling in a very clear way to the administration and to the American public that we are not interested in exercising our Article 1 authority on the issue of war making.”
Last Tuesday, the Senate voted to table (i.e., dispense with) it 55–44.
45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted to table it. 39 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against the motion.
The 10 Democrats were Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). If 6 of these 10 had voted yes, the resolution would have passed.
The 5 Republicans who voted against tabling the amendment were Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Rand Paul (R-KY).
In the past few years, the Senate has only taken two other votes related to this ongoing war.
Last July, the Senate defeated a resolution to block the sale of $510 million in weapons to Saudi Arabia by narrow vote of 53 to 47.
6 Democrats who voted in favor of advancing that resolution last year voted to continue the war this year: Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). If these 6 had all voted for last Tuesday’s resolution, it would have passed.
3 Republicans flipped their vote, but in the right direction: Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
Both of these votes, however, were far closer than the first vote the Senate took on the issue, which took place in September 2016.
Back then, only 27 senators voted in favor of blocking a pending arms deal.
That 27 consisted of 4 Republicans — Dean Heller (R-NV0, Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) — and 23 members of the Democratic caucus.
Here were the 23:
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)