Many Biden officials previously supported Yemen War Powers resolution
UPDATE: 12/14 6 a.m. EST: Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled the Yemen resolution Tuesday night from a vote, stating he would instead enter into negotiations for compromise language with the Biden Administration, which opposed the bill as-is, according to the Intercept.
“I’m not going to ask for a vote tonight,” Sanders said, according to the Intercept. “I look forward to working with the administration who is opposed to this resolution and see if we can come up with something that is strong and effective. If we do not, I will be back.”
This morning, the Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported that the Biden administration is urging Senators to vote against the Yemen War Powers resolution that the Senate is expected to vote on later this evening. According to Grim, “The White House is arguing that a vote in favor is unnecessary because, despite the lapse of the ceasefire, significant hostilities have not yet resumed, and the vote will complicate diplomacy.” Grim later reported on Twitter that White House staff would urge the president to veto the bill if it does pass.
The bill would restrict U.S. involvement in hostilities in Yemen and reassert Congress’s warmaking authority. The bill has the support of members on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and, reportedly, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
But Grim’s reports demonstrate a pronounced shift among Biden officials as key members of the administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, CIA Director Avril Haines, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, signed letters during the Trump years calling for an end to the U.S. role in the war in Yemen.
The first letter, released in November 2018 — the letter that includes Blinken and Haines — was signed exclusively by former Obama administration officials and acknowledged that the approach in the Obama years “did not succeed in limiting and ultimately ending the war,” and that “rather than learning from that failure, the Trump administration has doubled down on support for the Saudi leadership’s prosecution of the war …[t]he results have been devastating.”
The letter concluded “now, we must cease support altogether.”
After Trump vetoed a Yemen War Powers resolution passed by Congress in April 2019, a second letter later that year — signed by Sullivan, Sherman and current Biden officials Susan Rice and Samantha Power — urged members of Congress to use the opportunity presented by the NDAA vote to effectively override the veto. The letter called the war in Yemen “a constitutional matter facing Congress that may be unparalleled in its potential impact on millions of human lives.”
The situation on the ground may have changed since then, but the UN-brokered truce expired in October, and experts say the United States must do what it can to prevent human suffering and a return to all-out war. “If it doesn’t pass,” the Quincy Institute’s Annelle Sheline told Politico’s NatSec Daily referring to the current Yemen WPR, “I think the greater danger is that the Saudis could restart airstrikes and/or prevent flights and fuel ships. Most of the civilian casualties at this point are from insufficient food, water and medical care, due to the Saudis destroying Yemen’s infrastructure.”
Indeed, twoDemocratic members of the House wrote in The Nation earlier this year that “[a]s a candidate, President Biden pledged to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen while many who now serve as senior officials in his administration repeatedly called for shutting down precisely the activities the US is engaged in that enable Saudi Arabia’s brutal offensive.”
Editors’ note: Current Iran Envoy for the Biden administration Rob Malley, who is related to this author, also signed both letters.