tv U.S. Senate Senators Mike Lee Bernie Sanders on Yemen War Powers... CSPAN May 3, 2019 10:05am-10:31am EDT
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> an all-day conference at the national academy of sciences in washington hosted by johns hopkins. they are talking a climate change and will talk about the policy debate on climate change coming up at about 10:30 a.m. eastern. we will have that live with it gets underway.
here in washington the house and senate not in session today. the house and briefly for a pro forma session. yesterday in the senate they filled albright the president's veto of the yemen war powers resolution. the vote was 53-45. that resolution had called for an end to this military involvement in yemen. they need 67 votes. it failed 53-45. 45. one of the sponsors republican mike lee spoke on the senate floor before the vote. >> matter president trump over the past few months the members of this body and the members of the united states house of representatives resoundingly have voted in favor of senate joint resolution seven which would remove u.s. armed forces from saudi arabia is war in yemen. this unconstitutional, unjustified, and ultimately immoral war has repeatedly, over
the last year. and thankfully america's elected lawmakers in washington have taken a stand against it. now, the president has vetoed our resolution. but today we had the opportunity and i believe we have the absolute constitutional duty to once again take a stand on this important matter. today we have the opportunity to override the veto in pursuit of justice, prudence, and upholding the constitutionally mandated separation of powers. this is one of the most important fundamental features of our constitutional system. congress andes congress alone my declare war. this is in direct contrast to the way our old national government, the one in london worked. remember that system, the chief executive could take the country to war. not in america. not in the u.s. constitution. in fact, it's one of the distinguishing characteristics
pointed out in federalist 69. as we've already heard the humanitarian crisis in yemen is dyer. and estimates show that the crisis is even worse than we had previously thought. the yemen war has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, , including a whole lotf innocente civilians in attacks that can only be described as horrific. it's believed that from 2016-2018 over 60,000 combatants and civilians were killed in direct violence attached to thio war. but the full scale of suffering from starvation, poverty, and disease is even more staggering than the stark numbers that i just quoted involving direct
combat, or direct violence. over half the population of yemen is considered currently to be in the crisis stage of payment. an estimated 3.3 million children are malnourished, and over 84,000 children have died just between the start of the war in 2015 and october of 2018. pour water and sanitation conditions have also led to the largest cholera outbreak in history, with more than 1.3 million suspected cases and over 2600 related deaths since the april 2017 outbreak. and contrary to the claims of some of our critics, the united states has, in fact, been aiding and abetting these horrors of this war.
indeed, these critics claim that we have somehow not been involved in a war in yemen. but in march of 2015 shortly after saudi arabia launched its war against the houthi rebels, the obama administration authorize u.s. military forces to provide quote-unquote logistical and intelligence support to the saudi coalition. the obama administration this authorization without any kind of approval from congress. sincenc then we have helped the saudis with surveillance, reconnaissance, and information, target selectionna assistance, d until quite recently with mid air refueling, mid air refueling including mid air refueling combat missions. in other words, we've been materially assisting a foreign power in its efforts to bomb it adversaries. and sometimes helping that
foreign power to bomb a innocent civilians on the groundhe in the process. other opponents of our resolution claim that our involvement in this undeclared, unconstitutional, immoral civil war half a world away in yemen is somehow constitutional, is some out statutorily authorized under the war powers act of 1973, which authorizes theh executive branch to use armed forces in cases of emergencies, and under certain limited narrow time constraints. but the conflict in yemen, a conflict between a regional rebel group, on the one hand, and the saudi backed government on the other hand, byy no means constitutes or in any way presents a threat to the safety of american citizens in the united states. and our involvement has far
surpassed the allotment of any emergency time constraint contemplated under the war powers resolution. still, others say that we are not engaged in court unquote hostilities that constitute a conflict of war under the war powers act. but these critics of course are relying on an overly narrow and outdated definition from a 1976 memorandum. a memorandum i would add internal to the executive branch, and that respected self-serving. and one that does not include the indisputable high-tech activities of war today. the way we fight wars today, often ends up involving cyber activity, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target
selection. t the precise activities we are engaged in in this war in yemen. but even aside from that, under the war w powers act we ourselvs do not have to be involved in hostilities. we don't have h to establish in order to trigger the war powers act that were involved in hostilities. the war powers act is triggered so long as we are sufficiently involved with the armed forces of another nation, when they come those armed forces t of another nation, are themselves involved in a hostilities. and there can be no doubt in our minds, not in my mind, not in your mind, not in the mind of any american, that the saudis are engaged in hostilities in
yemen. and we are helping them. so it's immaterial. it is completely inconsequential if you accept this self-serving narrow updated outdated definif the wordti hostilities found in this 1976 department of defense memorandum. and finally, some opponents of this effort, of this resolution to call for all our withdrawalm this undeclared, unconstitutional, immoral war in yemen, some of them are saying the removing u.s. forces would somehow hurt our efforts to combat terrorism in the region specifically, against al-qaeda and isis, and would endanger the lives of american citizens and soldiers. in the first place, these critics are dangerously different geopolitical conflicts. the conflict in yemen is a regional civil war.
it is not about al-qaeda. it is not about isis. and even if it were, our resolution, senate joint resolution seven, the one we are talking about today in the context of a veto override debate, that resolution explicitly states that it would not impede military stability to fight these terror groups. but for the more, there is evidence that our involvement in yemen might will have, in fact, probably have further destabilized the region, and that it has actually undermined the efforts against al-qaeda is the affiliates. 2016 state department report found that the conflict between the saudidi led forces and the houthi insurgents has actually helped al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula, also known as aqap,
and isis yemen branch, to quote, deepen their inroads, deepen their inroads across much of the country, close quote. so no, involvement in yemen is far from being in the best interest of the nine states, madam president. not in the slightest. not even by a shred. and every day it only becomes clearer and clearer the saudi arabia is not an ally that deserves our unwavering, unflinching, unquestioning support and military intervention. unsecured,when our the security of the american people on u.s. soil, is not on the line. last october the was of course the killing of jamal khashoggi. in february at report cannot suggesting that the united arab emirates have actually transferred american-made
weapons to al-qaeda and other military groups. in other words, the saudi-led coalition is possibly giving our own weapons in violation of our own end-user agreement with them. to get to the very terrorist groups we are trying to fight, the very terrorist groups that oppose of this resolution incorrectly suggest who would benefit from the passage of this resolution. just thisas past week news surfaced that the saudis ruthlessly beheaded 37 men who were mainly minority shia muslims. five of them gay men, or suspected to have been tortured into a confession. perhaps we ought notll be supporting that regime at all, madam president. perhaps we ought not give unflinching, unwavering, unquestioning devotion to a regime that treats its own
people that way, and that is harmed others in its own region in the way that it has. but at a bare minimum, we should not be fighting and unjust civil war on their behalf half a world away without congressional authorization. article 1, section 8 of the constitution. unequivocally states the congress shall have power to declare war. congress, not the president, at the pentagon, not someone else in the executive branch. that's an expert in you were in the executive branch of government, but congress. and they did so, they made it this way because they understood that the decision about whether to go to war is a decision fraught with immense moral peril. there's nothing pretty about war.
and it always, when we face such a decision, involves a decision to put american treasure and american blood on the line. even if you think that modern-day weaponry or the modern way in which we fight wars, if you think that american blood and treasure is not being put on the line, that simply isn't true. that is exactly why the founding fathers placed this power in the legislative branch where it can be exercised squarely in front of the american people either elected representatives. this power was always intended to be exercised only by the branch of government most accountable to the people of the most regular intervals because of the moral peril necessarily involved in any decision to go to war. moral peril involving the use of u.s. resources, put it on the line of american blood, and also
a moral perilcr that it creates wherever we're going to war. if you truly believe that our involvement in yemen is crucial to the safety of american citizens and america's best interest generally. that is all the more reason to debate it and discuss it right here right now. if i the constitution demands it. it already is the law. we have to do this. if you are so confident we should be involved in this war, let's debate it. let's vote on it. let's let the american people see what we're about. let's let the american people have p some say the extent to which we put america's good name, it's treasure and displayed on the line. today, we still have an opportunity to have a say, to stake, to take a stand over this most grave matter. i urge my colleagues to take it.
thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. >> madam president? >> the senator from vermont. >> madam president, let me thank senator lee and senator chris murphy for their outstanding and consistent leadership on this issue. you know, at a time when the country bemoans the fact that there's not a lot of bipartisanship, this effort indicates that people with very different political philosophies can come together on an issue of enormous magnitude, and i do want to thank mike lee for his great work on this. madam president, i rise today to speak in support of overwriting the president's veto of senate resolution number seven. on april 16, despite telling us that he is opposed to quote-unquote endless wars,
president trump used the second veto of his presidency to reject senate joint resolution seven, which directs the removal of u.s. armed forces from the saudi-led intervention in the republic of yemen, a war which began four years ago. madam president, the vote on that resolution that was passed here in the senate was 54-46. all democrats voting for it, and seven republicans voting for it. the resolution passed the house on april 4 by bipartisan vote of 247-175. madam president, the current situation in yemen is the worst humanitarian disaster on earth.
in march of 2015 under the leadership of mohammad bin salman, then saudi arabia's defense minister and now the crown prince, a saudi-led intervention in yemen ongoing civil war took place. according to the united nations, yemen is at risk of the most severe famine in more than 100 years. according to the u.n., yemen is at risk of the most severe famine in more than 100 years, with some 14 million people -- this is a small country -- some small, , poor country, some 14 million people now face starvation as a result of this war, saudi-led intervention,
that we are supporting. according to save the children organization, madam president, some 85,000 children have already started to death. and millions more, they said, if the work continues. and it gets much worse than that. a new united nations commission report just published by the university of denver states that the impact of this war on civilians, particularly children, is actually far more serious than previously thought. if this war continues, the report estimates that by the end of 2019, it will have taken the lives of some 219,000 people in yemen, including 140,000 children under the age of five.
according to this report, every 12 minutes i idea many child is dying as a result of this war -- yemeni -- the magnitude of the suffering in that country is literally unimaginable. we're talking about the possibility of millions of people starving to death, of hundreds of thousands of people dying by the end of this year. and the fact is that the united states with relatively little media attention has been saudi arabia's partner in this horrific war. we are providing the bombs, the saudi coalition is using. we had been refueling their planes before they drop those bombs. and we've been assisting with
intelligence in many, many cases, our weapons are being used to kill women and children. late last year i met with several brave yemeni human rights activists here they had come to urge congress to put a stop to this war, and they told me clearly that when yemenis see made in the usa on the bombs that are killing them, it tells them that the u.s. a is responsible for this war. and that is a sad and tragic truth. mr. president, the bottom line is that the united states should not be supporting a counter -- catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with a dangerous and irresponsible foreign policy. so issue number one, mr.
president, is a horrific tragedy that we are contributing to in yemen. issue number two is equally important. and that is that the united states involvement in this war is clearly unconstitutional. now i hear many of my republican friends claim that their strict constitutionalists. well, if you are a strict constitutionalists, voting to override trump's veto should be a no-brainer, because this war has not been authorized by congress, is unconstitutional. let me remind my colleagues who may have forgotten what is in the united states constitution. article one section eight states clearly, and i quote, congress
shall have power to declare war, end of quote, while the president has the authority over the conflict before once it has been declared. the founding fathers day the power to authorize military conflicts to congress, the branch most accountable to the people. mr. president, under the war powers act of 1973, the assignment of a member of united states armed forces to, quote, demand, courtney, participate in the movement of or a company can end quote,du another countries military during a war constitutes the introduction of the united states into a conflict. our military involvement in the war in yemen, which has included logistical and intelligence support as well as aerial refueling of saudi warplanes
clearly meets this definition. mr.en president, for far too log the united states congress under both democratic and republican administrations has abdicated its constitutional role with regard to the authorization of war. the historic passage of this resolution, the first time since the 1973 war powers resolution was passed that it has been successfully used to withdraw that united states from an unauthorized war was a long overdue step by congress to reassert its constitutional authority. finally after years of abdicating that responsibility, congress stood up in the senate and in the house and said, you know what? mr. president?
mr. president, you do not have the power to get u.s. troops involved in a war that we did not vote upon. and that is a big deal. congress is finally, finally doing what the constitution of the united states mandate that it does. and now within a half hour or so the united states senate must act to protect that constitutional responsibility by overwriting the president's veto here now, i respect that there are members of this body who voted against the initial resolution, and that you support u.s. intervention in yemen for one of the number of reasons. and i respect your point of view, but if you think the united states should be involved in the saudi-led