Lawmakers, fellow Democrats slam Biden for not consulting with Congress ahead of Yemen strikes

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Key lawmakers, including some fellow Democrats, blasted President Biden late Thursday and early Friday for failing to consult with Congress before ordering U.S. airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and they warned that the president risks dragging America into another open-ended Middle East war.

The blunt comments from prominent members of Congress underscore the potential fallout for Mr. Biden following massive U.S. and British airstrikes against a dozen Houthi targets across Yemen. Those strikes came after the Houthis launched repeated assaults on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Houthi leaders said their campaign is retaliation toward Israel for its war in the Gaza Strip, though many of the ships targeted seemingly had no connection to Jerusalem.

The U.S. and Britain said the military action late Thursday was a last resort after weeks of diplomatic pressure and public warnings failed to stop the Houthi assaults. But lawmakers say Mr. Biden should have come to Congress for a formal authorization. 

Not doing so, they say, opens the door to disaster.

“The president needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another Middle East conflict. That is Article I of the Constitution. I will stand up for that regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House,” Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, said in a social media post.

Rep. Mark Pocan, Wisconsin Democrat, echoed that sentiment.

SEE ALSO: U.S., Britain strike Iranian-backed Houthi sites in Yemen

“The United States cannot risk getting entangled into another decades-long conflict without congressional authorization. The White House must work with Congress before continuing these airstrikes in Yemen,” he said in a post on X.

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, said on X that he agreed with Mr. Khanna’s assessment.

“The Constitution matters, regardless of party affiliation,” Mr. Lee said.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, said it was an “unacceptable violation of the Constitution” for Mr. Biden to order the strikes without congressional approval.

In Britain, some prominent officials voiced similar concerns. Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for example, said the U.S. and British strikes represented dangerous “escalation.”

“Military action in Yemen by the UK & U.S. government is a reckless act of escalation that will only cause more death and suffering,” he wrote on social media. “It is utterly disgraceful that parliament has not even been consulted. When will we learn from our mistakes and realise that war is not the answer?”

But Mr. Biden said that military action was necessary. In a statement Thursday night, he said he ordered the strikes to protect “one of the world’s most vital waterways,” which had become exceedingly dangerous amid repeated drone-and-missile attacks by the Houthis. The president said Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands supported the U.S.-British operation.

“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea — including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” the president said. “These attacks have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized trade, and threatened freedom of navigation.”

Mr. Biden stressed that the U.S. and its allies first tried an “extensive diplomatic campaign” to stop the Houthi attacks, though it’s clear that campaign wasn’t successful, and that military action was the only option left.

“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes,” Mr. Biden said. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Houthis had engaged in “a series of dangerous and destabilizing attacks” that threatened global commerce.

“Despite the repeated warnings from the international community, the Houthis have continued to carry out attacks in the Red Sea, including against UK and U.S. warships just this week. This cannot stand,” he said in a statement.

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