Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 20, 2018 9:59am-12:41pm EDT

9:59 am
[inaudible]if >> the u.s. senate will gavel ensures the work on a sex trafficking bill. senators are to work in a resolution to remove u.s. armed forces from yemen that has not been authorized by congress.
10:00 am
live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer : the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal father, teach us how to praise you at all times, constantly glorifying your name
10:01 am
and expressing gratitude for your prevailing providence. thank you for sustaining our lawmakers as they strive to fulfill your purposes for our nation and world. set them free from all fears, reminding them that you have been their help in the past and should be their hope for the years to come. forgive us all for duties unperformed, promptings disobeyed, and beckonings ignored. we pray in your merciful name.
10:02 am
amen. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., march 20, 2018. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i here by appoint the honorable benjamin sasse, a senator from the state of nebraska, who will perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order the leadership time is reserved.
10:03 am
10:04 am
the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: during sunday's closing ceremonies in the olympics, the american flag was held high by a member of the team. oxana masters was elected by her
10:05 am
teammates to cap off her remarkable trip. born why chur noble, she was adopted at the age of 7 and came to the united states. she underwent a number of medical procedures at a young age, including an amputation of both of her legs. this year marked her fourth para olympics, she entered pong chang with two medals. but this time she set her sights on the gold, and i'm happy to report that she achieved her goal. she ascended to the top of the podium not once but twice. kentucky is very proud of oxana and all that she accomplished. she a fine representative of our
10:06 am
commonwealth and our nation. and now, mr. president, on a totally different matter. the senate continues to consider a bill that would strike back against the evils of sex trafficking. the topic is all-too familiar to me and many of my colleagues who have fought against this exploitation for decades. this has migrated from the street koreans to smart -- street corners to smart phones. my friend and colleague from ohio, senator portman, has been especially committed to rooting out the cause of this crisis. he's built a broad bipartisan coalition in support of the legislation currently before the senate. it is designed to close a loophole in existing law that allows websites to avoid responsibility even as they knowingly facilitate trafficking. it would ensure any institution that's are party to this
10:07 am
reprehensible practice are subject to strict penalties, the ones that they deserve. i urge each of my colleagues to join us in taking decisive action for our nation's children. on another matter, later today the senate will vote on a resolution offered by the junior senators from vermont and utah. their goal is to end u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition houthi insurgence. they plan to do it using the provisions of the war powers resolution and the security assistance and arms export control act. i oppose their resolution for two reasons. the first reason, mr. president, is that my colleagues -- their substantive policy aim is actually misguided. the supreme leader and the regime know what their goals
10:08 am
are, preserving their rule and harming the united states and israel. that's what they want to do. that's why iran exports violence, intimidation, and coercion. that's why iran expands its ballistic missle program. that's why iran uses proxies such as the houthis along with others to go into yemen, iraq, bahrain and beyond. during the obama administration they drew down the conventional force structure. we traced after a flawed nuclear agreement. we reduced our commitment to our city arab partners. iran noticed our -- it supported a support of proxies and supported the unrest following the civil wars in yemen and
10:09 am
syria and the rampage of isil into attack. if this meddling is to be confronted, if terrorist threats are to be countered and if armed shipments are to be curtailed, the united states will need the help of our regional partners. one key partner is saudi arabia. we've shared common interests for decades. we worked together to counter iran, support the free syrian army, and combat isil. today the support the u.s. provides to the saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling over the red sea, contributes to greater precision in their air campaign and leads to fewer civilian casualties. withdrawing u.s. support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian cash iewltities and it would signal that we're not
10:10 am
serious about containing iran or its proxies. the houthi presence would continue to ship in the red sea, they would continue to threaten riad and iran would be further emboldened. so that's why the goal of this resolution is bad policy. but my colleagues' resolution is also procedurally mistaken. the expedited authorities are meant to remove u.s. forces from actual participation in u.s. hostilities. but this has not caused us to enter interactive warfare or hostilities in yemen. the department of defense and secretary mattis have made clear that u.s. forces are not -- are not engaged in exchanges of fire
10:11 am
with hostile forces. according to the acting general counsel of the department of defense, the limited military and intelligence support that the united states is providing to the k.s.a.-led coalition does not involve nip introduction of u.s. forces for purposes of the war power resolution or section 1013 of the authorization act, fiscal years 1984 and 1985. mr. president, i support that assessment, the refueling of aircraft over the red sea does not equate to introducing u.s. forces into hostilities nor does intelligence sharing. u.s. forces are not transporting saudi forces into combat within yemen by air, land, or sea. so the expedited procedures this resolution seeks to exploit simply do not apply here. if senators disagree with my
10:12 am
assessment on the merits and oppose our support for the coalition, they have he'll several legislative tools available to them. they could try to restrict funds through the appropriations process. they could amend the arms control export act or the licensing of defense services or the national defense authorization. authorization act. instead we face a resolution which purports to require the president to withdraw u.s. forces from hostilities in yemen. hostilities which we have not entered. in a recent speech secretary mattis explained, quote, history proves that nations with allies thrive, working by, with, and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to gain the greatest possible
10:13 am
strength. imagine how challenging that would become if every advise and assist mission our forces undertake around the globe becomes subject to misapplication of the war powers resolution. thus, mr. president, i oppose this resolution on grounds of policy and procedure. and i would urge our colleagues to join me in afternoon. now, on a final matter, later this week the senate will consider an omnibus spending package to address a number of critical priorities, from rebuilding america's infrastructure to fighting the opioid epidemic. in particular, building on the funding agreement passed in february, the measure will deliver the resources and certainty that the american military deserves. to be specific, this legislation will provide the largest year-on-year increase in defense
10:14 am
funding in 15 years. after years of disproportionate cuts to our armed services, congress has begun to provide adequate resources. to put an end to the harmful decline in combat readiness, to fulfill our commitments to american families who sacrifice through service, many of them in my home state of kentucky. for our men and women in uniform, this means a well-deserved pay raise. for our veterans back home, it means increased oversight and modernization in the veterans care system thanks to a record level of v.a. funding. our warriors on the front line deserve to be trained to the highest standards. now our commanders can work to restore combat readiness, and not a moment too soon. threats around the world are only growing in number and intensity. by strengthening our investment
10:15 am
in missile defense, by funding new weapons system, by scaling up shipbuilding an aircraft procurement and by investing in our all-volunteer service members, we will send a strong message to our allies and foes alike that america's military is regaining dominance. this week, my colleagues will have an opportunity to follow through and address the pressing needs of the defense community. i hope each of them will join me in voting to swiftly pass the omnibus, thus giving our armed forces the resources they need and deserve. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i would first ask unanimous consent my entire remarks be read into the record at this point. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: first, on the omni, i agree with the leader. hopefully we can come to an agreement and pass this this week. it has some things no one likes, and it has a lot of things not
10:16 am
everybody likes, but most people like. it was a fair compromise, the basic structure of it, and hopefully we can get to an agreement. our staffs are working really hard. i'd like to say a word about puerto rico. today marks the sixth anniversary of hurricane maria's landfall on the island, six-month anniversary. on puerto rico and the virgin islands. we all know the storm was one of the most powerful and devastating ever to strike those islands, with terrible damage to schools, hospitals, water systems, roads, homes, and businesses. for months and months, people didn't have electricity, clean water, or cell service. far too many people are still waiting for relief. there are 120,000 people without electricity. hundreds of thousands continue to lose power on a temporary basis. calculating hours of lost electricity service, puerto rico's experienced the longest blackout in the history of the u.s. tens of thousands are still
10:17 am
awaiting permanent shelter. 10,000 small businesses are closed. now, puerto rico struggled with severe debt and health care before maria came to its shores. the damage wrought by the hurricane has set the island even further back, despite the valiant efforts of its people. congress passed significant relief as part of the bipartisan budget agreement earlier this year. we have to make sure the aid goes to where it needs to go, and if additional aid is required, that we provide it. to the long-suffering citizens of puerto rico and the virgin islands and the thousands who relocated to the mainland, we haven't forgotten you. we are here to help you. you are on our minds, and we're going to keep fighting to help you rebuild your homes, your community, and your beloved island. finally, on the tax bill, i would just note that once again, this tax bill every day, the more people learn about it, the more they don't like it. stock buybacks continue at a
10:18 am
hugely rapid rate. aid to workers is much, much smaller. the american people are learning that this bill was of, by, and for the wealthiest americans and the most powerful corporations. that is wrong. we welcome the debate on the tax bill because the more people learn about it, the more they don't like it. i yield the floor. and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:19 am
10:20 am
10:21 am
10:22 am
10:23 am
10:24 am
10:25 am
10:26 am
10:27 am
10:28 am
10:29 am
mr. sanders: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 339, h.r. 1865,
10:30 am
an act to amend the communications act of 1934, and so forth, and for other purposes. mr. sanders: mr. president, pursuant to section 1013 of the department of state authorization act, fiscal years 1984 and 1985 and in accordance with the provisions of section 601-b of the international security assistance and arms export control act of 1976, i make a motion to discharge senate joint resolution 54 from the committee on foreign relations. officer under the previous order, there are four hours of debate on the motion equally divided between the opponents and the proponents. mr. sanders: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, article 1, section 8, of the constitution states in no uncertain terms that, and i quote, congress
10:31 am
shall have power to declare war, end of quote. let me repeat it. article 1, section 8, of the constitution states, it is congress that has the power to declare war. the founding fathers gave the power to authorize military conflicts to congress, the branch most accountable to the people. not to the president but to congress, and that is the issue that we are going to be debating today. mr. president, for far too long, congress under democratic and republican administrations has abdicated its constitutional role in authorizing war. the time is long overdue for congress to reassert that
10:32 am
constitutional authority, and that is what today is about. and that is why i and 14 cosponsors of this resolution -- senators lee, murphy, warren, booker, leahy, markey, feinste feinstein, merkley, gillibrand, schatz and balanced written -- that is what we are doing with senate joint resolution 54. what we are saying is if congress wants to go to war in yemen or anyplace else, vote to go to war. that is your constitutional responsibility. stop abdicating that responsibility to a president, whether it is a republican president or, in the president, democratic presidents. mr. president, i expect that
10:33 am
congress today will be arguing about what the word "hostilities" means within the context of the 1973 war powers resolution. what does the word "hostilities" mean? and some will argue that american troops are not out there shooting and getting shot at, not exchanging fire -- gunfire with their enemies. and that we are not really engaged in the horrifically destructive saudi-led war in yemen. that's what some will argue on the floor today, that we're really not engaged in hostilities, we're not exchanging fire. well, please tell that to the people of yemen, whose homes and lives are being destroyed by
10:34 am
weapons marked "made in the u.s.a." dropped by planes being refueled by the u.s. military on targets chosen with u.s. assistance. only in the narrowist, most legalistic terms can anyone argue that the united states is not actively involved in hostilities alongside of saudi arabia in yemen. and let me take a minute to tell my colleagues what is happening in yemen right now, because a lot of people don't know. it's not something that is on the front pages of the newspapers or covered terribly much in television. right now in a very, very poor nation of 27 million people -- that is the nation of yemen --
10:35 am
in november of last year the united nations emergency relief coordinator told us that yemen was on the brink of, quote, the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, end of quote from the united nations. so far in this country of 27 million people -- this very poor country -- over 10,000 civilians have been killed and 40,000 civilians have been wounded. over 3 million people in yemen in a nation of 27 million have been displaced, driven from their homes. 15 million people lack access to clean water and sanitation because water treatment plants have been destroyed. more than 20 million people in
10:36 am
yemen, over two-thirds of the population of that country, need some kind of humanitarian support, with nearly 10 million in acute need of assistance. more than one million suspected cholera cases have been reported, representing potentially the worst cholera outbreak in world history. that is what is going on in yemen today as a result of the saudi-led war there. and here is, mr. president, the bottom line. if the president of the united states or members of congress believe that support for this war is in the united states' interest -- and i think some do
10:37 am
-- if you think that the united states right now for our own interest should be involved in the civil war in yemen being led by saudi arabia, then members of the united states senate should have the courage to vote for u.s. participation in that war. nothing more complicated than that. you want to come to the floor of the senate, make the case why you think it is good public policy for us to be involved in that civil war in yemen, come to the floor and oppose our resolution. but what i hope very much that we will not see today is the tabling of this motion and the refusal by members of the senate to vote up or down as to whether or not we wish to continue
10:38 am
aiding saudi arabia in this humanitarian disaster. if you believe, as i do, that we should not get sucked into this civil war, which has already caused so much human suffering, please vote against tabling the motion to discharge and vote with us on final passage. if you believe that the united states should continue to assist saudi arabia in this war, i urge you to have the courage to tell your constituents that that is your decision and why you have made that decision when you vote against final passage. in other words, if you support the war, have the courage to vote for it. if you don't, support the resolution that senator lee, senator murr first, and i --
10:39 am
senator murphy, and i have introduced. mr. president, let me give you at least two reasons why congress must reassert its constitutional authority over the issue of war and why we cannot continue to abdicate that responsibility to the president. and those have everything to do with the two most significant foreign policy disasters in the modern history of the united states -- the war in iraq and the war in vietnam. in both of these cases, congress sat back and failed to ask the hard questions, as two administrations -- one republican, one democrat -- led us into conflicts with disastrous consequences. interestingly, today is an historically significant day for
10:40 am
us to debate this resolution. 15 years ago -- 15 years ago today -- on march 20, 2003, the war in iraq began and the bombs started falling in baghdad. 15 years ago today. i was one of those who opposed the iraq war in the beginning. and today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war -- that war was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. that war created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in syria and elsewhere and will be for many years to come. indeed, had it not been for the war in iraq, isis would almost certainly not exist.
10:41 am
that war deepened hostilities between sunni and shia communities in iraq and elsewhere. it exacerbated a regional conflict for power between saudi arabia and iran and their proxies in places like syria, lebanon, and yemen. and it undermined american diplomatic efforts to resolve the israeli-palestinian conflict. the devastation experienced by iraq's civilians was enormous. a recent academic study by u.s., canadian, and iraqi researchers found that over 400,000 iraqi civilians, nearly half a million people, were killed directly or indirectly as a consequence of that war. that war led to the displacement of nearly 5 million people, both inside and outside iraq, putting
10:42 am
great stress on the ability of surrounding countries to deal with these refugees. we've also seen this more recently in europe as the large numbers of people fleeing the syrian war has generated a bac backlash in european countries, giving rise to anti-muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments. the war in iraq led to the deaths -- to the deaths -- of some 4,400 american troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others, not to mention the pain flinted on family -- inflicted on family members. and, by the way, that war in iraq cost us trillions of dollars, money that could have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection. mr. president, the iraq war, like so many other military conflicts, had unintended
10:43 am
consequences. it ended up making us less safe, not more safe. mr. president, it must be said that the bush administration and the president lied when he told the american people, quote, saddam hussein's regime is seeking a nuclear bomb and with fissile material could build one within a year, end of quote. that was not true. vice president dick cheney lied when he told us, quote, there is no doubt that saddam hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. there is no doubt he is amassing them it use against our friends, against our alive, and against us -- against our alive, and against us, end of quote, dick cheney. not true. no one believes that saddam hussein was a brutal, murderous dictator. but it is now known that he had nothing to do with 9/11. but the bush administration lied
10:44 am
to the american people. iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. it was not connected to 9/11. the american people were misled by the bush administration into believing that the iraq war was necessary to prevent another 9/11. and congress did not challenge them on those claims. -- in a way that congress should have. with disastrous consequences. that was a republican administration. now let me tell you about a democratic administration where, once again, congress refused to assert its constitutional responsibility. let us go back to 1964 to a conflict that began on similarly
10:45 am
false premises. president lyndon johnson cited an attack on a u.s. ship in the gulf of tonkin as a pretext for escalating the u.s. intervention in vietnam and sending more and more and more troops into that quagmire. but we now know from declassified recordings that johnson himself doubted that ship, the u.s.s. maddox had come you under fire on august 4, 1964. as we all know, that alleged attack was used to push for the gulf of tonnkin to escalate u.s. involvement in vietnam. we now know that secretary of defense robert mcnamara misled congress and the public in order to generate support for that
10:46 am
resolution. now, you don't have to believe me. this is what lieutenant commander pat patterson wrote in a paper for the united states naval institute. and i quote, the evidence suggests a disturbing and deliberate attempt by secretary of defense mcnamara to mislead congress. patterson, interestingly enough, also quotes another author who wrote, and i quote, to enhance his chances for election, johnson and mcnamara deceived the american people and congress about the events in vietnam. they used a questionable report of a north vietnamese attack on u.s. naval vessels to diffuse republican senator and presidential candidate barry goldwater's charges that lyndon johnson was a resolute and sought in the foreign policy
10:47 am
arena. end of quote. interestingly enough, mr. president, that author is h.r. mcmaster, president trump's current national security advisor. lyndon johnson's administration misled both congress and the american people into that war just as the bush administration misled us into the war in iraq. and what disasters both of those wars were. the war in vietnam nearly destroyed an entire generation of young people. almost 60,000 died in that war and god knows how many came back wounded in body and in spirit. almost destroyed an entire generation, and yet congress abdicated its responsibility in vietnam as it did in iraq.
10:48 am
mr. president, the truth about yemen is that u.s. forces have been actively engaged in support of the saudi coalition in this war, providing intelligence and airline re -- aerial refueling of planes that has made this humanitarian across worse. this has proven counterproductive to the effort against al qaeda's ability, the ports on terrorism in 2016, found that the conflict with the saudi-led forces and the houthi insurgence has helped the yemen branch to deepen its end roads across much of the country. in other words, as we see again, when there is chaos, when there is mass confusion, isis and
10:49 am
their allies are able to jump it. furthermore, while iran's support for houthi insurgence is of serious concern for all of us, the truth is this war has increased, not decreased, the opportunities for iranian interference. the trump administration has tried to justify or involvement in the yemen war as necessary to push back on iran many -- iran. another administration said that invading iraq was essential al qaeda. none of that turned out to be true. we should have asked the congress -- at those times should have asked the hard questions which they didn't ask. the congress should have taken its constitutional role seriously and did what the
10:50 am
constitution demanded that it do, than is what my cosponsors and i are doing today. so, mr. president, let me just conclude, and i see my colleague, senator lee here, who has been very active in standing up for the constitution on this issue, and i will yield to him in a minute. here is the bottom line, and it is not a complicated line. the constitution is clear, the u.s. congress decides whether we go to war. there is no question in my mind that by aiding saudi arabia in the way that we are doing that, we are assisting in war. we are in a conflict. if members of the senate think that conflict makes sense, is good public policy for the united states of america, vote down our resolution. if you agree with senator lee and me, that it is a bad idea,
10:51 am
support us. but what i would urge in the strongest possible terms is members of the senate have got to end the abdication of its constitutional responsibility. accept it. vote yes, vote no. do not vote to table this resolution and duck the constitutional responsibility that we have. with that, i would yield to my colleague, senator lee. mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, the issue we're confronting today is one that deals with the separation of powers outlined in the united states constitution. you see, our system of government was setup in such a way as to protect the people from the dangers associated with the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few. we knew from our experience under british rule that bad things happen, especially at a national level, when too few
10:52 am
people exercise too much of the power. nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the war power. in fact, much of the revolutionary struggle that led to the creation of our nation resulted from wartime activities undertaken by a monarch thousands of miles and an ocean away. it's important today that we remember those same concerns and the constraints placed into our constitution as we run our government nearly two and a half centuries later. i'm happy to be here with my colleague senator sanders to file a discharge motion for our resolution, s.j. res. 54. whether you're physically present in the chamber or tuning in at home, i hope you will
10:53 am
listen closely so we can fill you in on the unauthorized middle east war that your government, the government of the united states of america, is supporting and actively participating in. this war in yemen has killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, human beings, lest we forget. each one of them possessing innate, immeasurable worth and dignity. this war has created refugees, orphans, widows. it has cost millions of dollars, and believe it or not at the end of the day, it has quite arguably undermined our fight against terrorist threats against isis. i will expand on those thoughts for a moment, but for now let's focus on the military involvement in yemen has not
10:54 am
been authorized by congress. article 1, section 8 of the constitution says that congress shall have the power to declare war. congress, not the president, not the pentagon, not someone else within the executive branch of government, but congress. yet, in 2015, then-president obama initiated our military involvement in yemen and did so without authorization from congress. the current administration has continued obama's war. senator sanders, senator murphy, our cosponsors and i are now giving congress a chance to fix this error by debating and voting on our nation's continued involvement in this unauthorized, illegal war in yemen. now, if as our opponents claim this war is necessary, then
10:55 am
surely they can defend that argument before this body and before the house of representatives and ultimately secure authorization from congress just as the constitution demands under article 1, section 8. but if on the other hand they cannot defend this war and they cannot persuade a majority of members of this body and a majority of members of the house of representatives that this is a war that needs to be fought, then it needs to end. let's have an honest reckoning about this war today. before this debate gets under way in ernest, there are a few points that i'd like to clarify. first, let's talk about iran for just a moment. yes, the houthis did fire on a u.s. navy vessel. this only reinforces the fact
10:56 am
that yemenis see the u.s. as participants in this war regardless of whether or not congress wants to acknowledge that participation or approve it as the constitution requires. what we do know is this. the houthis are a regional rebel group that does not itself threaten the united states. while the houthis are no friends of ours, neither are they a serious threat to american national security. the longer we fight against them, the more reason we give them to hate america and embrace the opportunists who are our true enemy in the region, iran. and the more we prolong activities to destabilize the region, the longer we harm our own interests in terms of trade and broader regional security. the bottom line, mr. president,
10:57 am
is this, we're spending a great deal of time and treasure to defeat a regional rebel group with no desire to attack the homeland and unclear ties to iran. iran -- iran's influence is much clearer in other parts of the middle east with other groups, for example, with the murderous terrorist group hezzbollah. so if we p want to count -- so if we want to counter iran, let's have that debate in congress and vote to equip this administration with the necessary authorization to use our vast and fearsome military resources to defeat its proxies and not to create new proxies by turning rebel groups against us. let's talk about isis for a moment. our resolution would not impede the military's ability to fight
10:58 am
terror groups like isis inside yemen. the resolution itself requires the removal of u.s. forces from hostilities in yemen except -- except, and i quote, united states armed forces engaged in operations directed at al qaeda or associated forces. close quote. that is a direct quote from the text of the resolution itself. it should put the rest of the notion, it should put to rest this notion that this would somehow jeopardize our ability to fight terrorists. the pentagon and the executive branch have long insisted that it has adequate authority under the authorization for the use of military force enacted in 201, adequate authority under the 20 01aumf to fight isis. so if they at the pentagon and
10:59 am
elsewhere this the executive branch, or if any of my colleagues now claim that this resolution specifically needs to exempt operations against isis, what are we to make of their previous confidence in the 2001, aumf. have they suddenly lost faith in that document overnight or are they merely using this argument as a pretense to oppose our resolution? i personally believe that the 2001 aumf has been stretched too far. our position is agnostic about whether counterterror can proceed. our resolution is specific and our resolution relates specifically to the houthis. nothing in this bill may be interpreted as an aumf.
11:00 am
lastly, with regard to saudi arabia and the ongoing visit of crown prince mohammed ben solman in washington, d.c., at the moment, i've been deeply concerned about our illegal war in yemen since its inception and have taken steps to end our involvement in that war. i presented questions to our combatant commanders on the topic just as i have for other unauthorized operations in the past. i had hoped the new administration might take prompt action to end our unauthorized activities in yemen. sadly, that has not occurred. last fall, after countless missed opportunities and some broken assurances, my colleagues and i decided it was time to
11:01 am
take matters into our own hands. by matters, i mean those matters that are specifically already in our hands. those matters that are already granted to the united states congress and to no other branch of government. there may be some short-term impact on the u.s.-saudi relationship, but overall, the crown prince should understand that this protracted and clearly nonconclusive war only hurts his government's stability and legitimacy. he, too, should want a quick end to this conflict. saudi arabia is an indispensable partner in the region, without which the united states would be less successful, but the saudis themselves are at a reflection point within their own government. working with the united states should be a goal for the crown prince and should be a
11:02 am
credibility-lending endeavor. the resolution before you is the product of years of effort. it was not timed in any way, shape, or form to coincide with the crown prince's visit. it was drafted with one thing in mind, which is to make sure that before we put u.s. blood and treasure on the line, before we put the sons and daughters of the american people who serve in harm's way into an area in which hostilities are ongoing, to get involved in combat capacities in an area where conflict is brewing, we owe it to them, we owe it to their parents, we owe it to their families, we owe it to ourselves having taken an
11:03 am
oath to uphold, protect, and defend the constitution of the united states to do it the right way. not just because the constitution requires that, but also because of the reasons why the constitution requires that. it makes sense that when we're doing something that has a greater capacity to impact our government, our standing in the world, our own security and the lives of those who were sworn to protect us, if we do it in the right way, not just through the appropriate branch of government but through the appropriate branch of government in part because that's the only place where an open, honest public debate can occur. it's one thing to make a decision somewhere within the military chain of command on whether to undertake a particular action, but this is one of the reasons why in order to declare war, in order to get us involved in a war in the first place, it requires action by congress because this is the
11:04 am
branch of the federal government most accountable to the people at the most regular intervals. over the course of many decades under the leadership of congresses and white houses of every conceivable partisan combination, we've seen a gradual shift of power in a number of areas, including regulatory policy, including trade policy, and including the exercise of the war power over to the executive branch of government. when we don't exercise that power, it starts to atrophy. the constitution means less and it is less able to protect the american people. that's why this resolution matters. that's why i urge my colleagues to support this resolution. let's do this the right way. thank you, mr. president. mr. sanders: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i ask my colleague from utah a very simple question. i ask him whether he agrees with
11:05 am
me or not. but it seems to me, senator lee, that we are talking about two separate issues here. without objection. it seems to me we are talking about two separate issues, one of which is really a no-brainer, and the no-brainer is that the constitution is very clear that it is the united states congress, not the president, who determines whether or not we go to war and that we are currently in an unauthorized war in yemen. and that the first vote, if there is an attempt to table this, would be absolutely unacceptable because we would be abdicating our decision-making, and then the second vote is the vote on whether we think it is a good idea to be in yemen alongside -- would you agree with me that at least on the motion to table, every member of
11:06 am
the senate should allow us to go forward, to vote against tabling so that people in the senate accept their constitutional responsibility to vote yes or no on the war in yemen? mr. lee: i would certainly agree that the answer is yes in response to that question. it is congress that gets to decide whether or not we go to war. it is not the executive branch. and for that very same reason, when we have brought up this resolution, calling the question on whether or not we have authorized that war and whether or not we should continue in the absence of an authorization for that war, if we are asked to table that, that very request amounts to a request for abdication of our constitutional responsibility. a favorite song of mine called "free will" by the band rush
11:07 am
came out several decades ago. it says if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. if we choose in this moment to table this resolution, we are making a choice to be willfully blind to the exercise of a power that belongs to us, to allow someone else to exercise it without proper authority. that is wrong. that cannot happen, not on our watch. mr. sanders: let me just concur strongly with what senator lee just said. there may be disagreements about the wisdom of being allied with saudi arabia on the war in yemen. there will be honest disagreements about that. but there cannot be and there must not be an abdication of constitutional responsibility in terms of making that decision. if you think that u.s. participation in the war in yemen is a good idea, you can vote against our resolution. if you agree with us that it is a bad idea, support our
11:08 am
resolution. but simply to abdicate your responsibility on this issue would be absolutely irresponsible. so i would hope that we would have virtually unanimous support in voting against the effort to table, then let us get into the debate about the wisdom of the war and vote it up or down. needless to say, i would hope that the members support our resolution, but let us at least have that vote and not abdicate our responsibility. mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: some of our colleagues from time to time may ask us how we would define the term hostilities, and what the united states might be doing that triggers that definition.
11:09 am
i welcome that discussion. it's important to note that the u.s. code is somewhat vague as to that question, defining hostilities broadly to mean any conflict subject to the laws of war. i don't necessarily view that broad definition as problematic. it is something that allows congress to assess the unique circumstances in each instance on specific grounds at each point in time. our involvement in war and in conflict has greatly changed over the years, and it will continue to change as the nature of international relations changes, as the technology that we use in war changes and develops. it doesn't mean that we're not involved in hostilities. i welcome further discussion on this matter. so let's look at the facts of our involvement in yemen today.
11:10 am
since 2015, u.s. forces have aided the saudi coalition with midair refueling and target selection assistance, or as defense secretary jim mattis said in december, 2017, our military is helping the saudis, quote, make certain they hit the right thing, close quote. so in other words, we're helping a foreign power bomb its adversaries in multiple ways. if that doesn't include and amount to and itself constitute hostilities, then such words have lost their meaning. now, there are those within the executive branch of government who would define the term hostilities so narrowly that it would apply only when our armed service personnel are on the ground firing upon or being
11:11 am
fired upon by an enemy force. it's understandable in some respects that they would want to define it this way, because if they define it that way, that puts the executive in power. that's one of the reasons why we have to remember that there is a natural penchant built into our constitutional structure to make sure that not all power is concentrated in any one branch of government. it's one of the reasons why, as alexander hamilton pointed out in federalist number 69, the war power would not be exercised by the executive in our system of government. in this instance, as in many others, the executive in our system of government would differ from the monarch under the old system, the one that was based in london. you see, the king had the power to take great britain to war. the king didn't have to seek a declaration of war from
11:12 am
parliament. the king could act in and of himself to decide when to take us to war. that's one of the reasons why it matters here. when we see the definition of hostilities narrowed to the point that it very often will not exist, given the way we engage in hostilities today, given modern technologies that frequently allow us to engage in acts that anyone would have to acknowledge, amount to combat, amount to conflict, amount to hostilities, they can still explain it away as something that the executive can do independently of congress. now, this resolution actually will not do anything, according to some, because we're not engaged in hostilities in yemen. this building upon this argument that's based on a very narrow,
11:13 am
cramped, distorted interpretation of the word hostilities. and so when people ask what do we think the resolution would do if it would pass, well, first of all, it's -- it's clear that we are engaged in hostilities because when we're involved in , involved in midair refueling in combat flights, when we're identifying targets for the saudi-led military coalition in yemen against the howt -- houthis, these are combat activities, those are hostilities. even if we were to expos that combat activities in yemen still did not compose hostilities, the text of our resolution is crystal clear about what constitutes hostilities for its purposes. namely, quote, aerial targeting
11:14 am
assistance, intelligence sharing, and mid flight aerial refueling. our resolution would end those very specific activities against the houthis in yemen. nothing more and nothing less. mr. sanders: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: now i speak only for myself on this issue and tell you why i am so motivated about this resolution. and that is if we think back on the modern history of our country and we think of the two most significant foreign policy decisions -- and that is the war in vietnam and the war in iraq and the unbelievable, unintended consequences that those two destructive wars had, what we conclude is that in both of those wars, one under a democratic president, one under a republican president, the
11:15 am
congress abdicated its responsibility, did not ask the right questions, and that in both instances, we got into those terrible, terrible wars based on lies. the administration, johnson administration, lied about why we should get involved into the war in vietnam. the bush administration lied as to why we should get involved in the war in iraq. and it just steams me that -- and it just seems to me that, if nothing -- based on those two examples, what the war in vietnam did and what the war in iraq did -- that congress has got to take a deep breath and understand that the people who wrote that constitution were not fools. and what they said, it must be the people -- elected people closest to the constituents who have got to debate these issues, who know that decisions being
11:16 am
made about result in the loss of lives of people in their own states. and we have abdicated that responsibility. now, no one can predict whether the decisions made by congress are going to be good decisions with regard to war and peace, whether we're going to do better than presidents did. i don't know. but at the very least we have got to accept our responsibili responsibility, not simply take the word of presidents who in the two most recent significant wars have lied to the american people. so, mr. president, once again, i know there may be differences of opinion regarding the wisdom of the u.s. being involved in the war in yemen. if you think it's a good idea, vote against our resolution. there should be no difference of opinion about accepting our responsibility under the constitution to vote on whether or not it is a good idea. with that, i would -- mike, did
11:17 am
you want more time? i would yield. is that all right with you? okay. mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: yes, the senator from utah. mr. lee: one of the other questions we get from time to time is, you know, senator sanders mentioned some previous wars and how this may or may not relate to those previous wars. it's also a related question that we get, how does this impact or influence operations where the united states is engaged somewhere else in the world? with the passage -- would the passage of this resolution mean that every other type of operation anywhere else in the world would have to stop, too? and what about our global counterterrorism activities? we sometimes get those questions. the main reason we drafted this resolution was to bring our activities in yemen into line with our laws, as expressed in the constitution.
11:18 am
so if we're fighting unauthorized wars in other places around the globe, then those wars need to be authorized by congress or else they would need to end. importantly, however, this resolution does not itself make law or set precedent for other operations. this resolution applies just to this conflict in yemen against the houthis. each conflict or operation ought to be evaluated oint own merits and -- on its own merits and measured against our national interest and any existing authorizations efficient use of -- for the use of military force. so we can't evaluate this resolution as being something that requires us to swallow the entire elephant at once. this is just focusing on one issue in one part of the world.
11:19 am
and we need not take any kind of a sky-is-falling approach that will say this will immediately jeopardize everything else we're doing anywhere in any and every part of the world. now, global counterterror operations under title 10 or title 50 involve u.s. action but arise in different ways. and any other activity that we undertake or authority that we cite in introducing our armed service personnel into hostilities cannot serve as a substitute into congressional action. the power to declare war belongs
11:20 am
to congress and not to the executive. just because government breaks the rules often -- and sometimes with impunity -- does not mean it has the right to break the rules, nor does it mean that we shouldn't call out rule breaking where we see it going on. but that's a debate for another day. the resolution buffs is specific to our activity -- the resolution before us is specific to our activities in yemen. it does not authorize or deauthorize activities in any other part of the globe against any other foe. it does not interfere with existing operations against al qaeda and its affiliates. our resolution is merely tailored to assist forces against the houthis. counterterror operations supported by the 2001 aumf and
11:21 am
other legitimate authorizations would not be affected by this resolution. mr. president, i'd like to yield the floor to senator murphy. mr. murphy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. i'm grateful to be able to join for a few moments with the cosponsors of this resolution, senator lee and senator sanders. it is important to pick up on what senator lee was just putting down, the notion that this is a limited resolution that speaks to our participation in an unauthorized, illegal partnership with the saudis to bomb the country of yemen. it does not affect our partnership with saudi arabia and others in the gulf region to continue to confront terror, to continue to confront al qaeda.
11:22 am
a specific carve-out of this legislation allowing for 2001 aumf activities to go forward. but it is also important to note that if you care about that priority -- taking on caulks taking on isis in the region -- then you should support debating our resolution because all of the evidence suggests that the continuation of this civil war inside yemen is making aqap, the arm of al qaeda that has the clearest intentions to attack the homeland and isis, both more powerful. aqap controls much more territory inside yemen than they did at the beginning of this civil war. and if you take the time to meet with yemeni americans, they will tell you that inside yemen, this is not perceived as a saudi bombing campaign. it is perceived as a united states-saudi bombing campaign. toad this new information that -- add to this new information that suggests that some of our partners in the coalition,
11:23 am
though not directly work was al qaeda -- working with al qaeda are starting to arm some sulla afa militias that are filled with the type of individuals that could easily turn, take the training they've received from the coalitions, the weapons they've received from the coalition against the united states. so if you care about the mission against terrorism, then you should support debating our resolution. but just to recap the reasons why we are here today, we need to have a debate on the lack of authorization for military force because it is time for congress to step up and do our constitutional duty. the administration told us that in their letter to us that we do not have the authority as the united states congress to weigh in on military activity waged by the administration unless there are two armies firing at each other on the ground in an area
11:24 am
of conflict. that is the administration's definition of hostilities. that is a definition that's been used by republicans and democrats. this is not exclusive to the trump administration. it would allow for the united states, through executive decision only, to wage an air campaign against a country that wipes it out without any say from the united states congress. clearly what is happening in yemen today meets the definition of hostilities. we have shown pictures on this floor before of entire cities that have been wiped out, 10,000-plus civilians have been killed, the largest outbreak of cholera in the history of the world in terms of what we have recorded. that is hostilities, and the united states is clearly engaging in those hostilities because we are helping with targeting, refueling the planes, supplying the munitions. so if we cede to unlimited executive authority with respect to this engagement, there is no
11:25 am
end to that. lastly, let me justine what's happening on the ground -- let me just speak to what's happening on the ground. there's zero evidence -- zero evidence -- that u.s. participation in this coalition has made things better. civilian casualties are not getting b the day after christmas over 60 civilians were killed in a series of airstrikes. reports are that last month the saudis engaged once again in something called double tapping, in which they target an area where civilians live, they wait for the emergency responders to arrive, and then they hit again, something that is not allowed by international humanitarian law. the humanitarian catastrophe itself is getting worse, not better. and maybe most importantly, the battle lines inside yemen are not changing. the saudis have been telling us for years just stick with us, stick with us. if you keep on helping us bomb the yemeni people, we will win
11:26 am
this war, we will get back control of hugh data at that and -- of hudaydah. today the houthis control about 70% of the population inside yemen. 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 that country. and so while senator lee notes that this resolution is actually not on the merits of our engagement there, it is on whether or not we have legal justification to be there, let's admit that if you do super-the merits -- if you do consider the merits, other than backing the play of our historic ally, there is nothing to suggest that our participation there is making things better.
11:27 am
mr. sanders: whether you agree with me whether we're dealing with two separate issues here. the first issue is a no brainer. it is whether or not the congress -- or had this case the senate of the united states -- accepts its constitutional responsibility on issues of war. we are now engaged in a war in yemen with saudi arabia. the constitution is very clear. article 1, section 8, it is the congress that determines whether it country goes to war. i believe that will happen -- i believe what will happen in a few hours is a motion to table will come up. would you agree with me that it would be an act of cowardice in a essential an abdid i indication of congressional -- an abdid i indication of congressional responsibility for someone to vote to table that resolution? mr. murphy: by voting to table the consideration of this are you are voting to -- the
11:28 am
consideration of this resolution, you are voting to stop a debate, a conversation from happening in the united states senate about whether or not proper authorization exists. so let's be hon best p what this first vote is. this first vote is, do we want to talk about whether or not there is authorization to perpetuate this war? and 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. mr. sanders: in other words, no matter what one's view may be about the wisdom of the war, a vote to table is to abdicate our constitutional responsibility? mr. murphy: is to send a very clear signal to the administration that we are not interested in having a debate
11:29 am
here about questions, complicated questions of legal authority for serious military engagements overseas. mr. sanders: all right. let me just concur with senator murphy. if you think it's a good idea for the united states to be involved in the war in yemen with saudi arabia, you can vote against our resolution. but i can think of no reason at all why any member of the congress would vote to table this resolution and prevent that discussion. and i would hope that we would have strong support against any motion to table and allow that debate to go forward. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president?
11:30 am
the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, this week we are discussing, among other topics, the sad fact of sex trafficking online. the reason is because yesterday we voted to advance a piece of legislation called sesta, or stop enabling sex traffickers act. the purpose of that legislation is crystal clear. we want to put an end to this abominable practice, and we want to stop shielding or protecting those web platforms that promote it. i'm proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation. over the past year, like many of my colleagues, i met with law enforcement and victims' rights groups across the country which talk about this as a continuing problem. i've met with technology providers who want to end the practice but want to make sure they maintain their independence from federal regulation, writ
11:31 am
large. i've been in regular contact with my colleagues over in the house to make sure this bill was considered and passed in a timely practice. i think it's fair to characterize that negotiations is delicate. a small group of senators, including our colleague, john mccain, the senior senator from arizona, wanted to make sure that everyone understood what this bill does and what it does not do. what it does do is protect our children. it provides justice to victims and it makes sure federal laws don't protect those who profit from sex trafficking online. what it does not do is somehow stymie free speech. it does not restrict web platforms from publishing objectionable content. under the decency act now, websites have to screen for child pornography, one of the exceptions to the act which
11:32 am
provides immunity for these web platforms from liability. what we're doing is adding to that human trafficking, and it's propb that we do -- appropriate that we do so. this does not discourage websites that are already taking steps to proactively remove improper conduct and police their own networks. i would say to those that do, keep up the good work. today the internet and other forms of technology made certain forms of predatory behavior easier to engage in. this bill addresses this development head on. it would allow section trafficking victims to have their day in court by eliminating federal liability protections for technology providers who knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking. it would allow state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute providers that violate federal sex trafficking laws. this bill was introduced last summer after a two-year inquiry
11:33 am
by the permanent subcommittee on investigations which produced a report. that report found not only that sex trafficking had run rampant in certain online spaces, but also that some websites had tried to cover it up. well, no longer. last fall the senate commerce committee unanimously approved sesta, the bill on the floor, and the house passed it last month, and now, mr. president, it's our turn. senator portman, the junior senator from ohio, has been this bill's greatest champion since its interception. i believe he was one of the members of the permanent subcommittee on investigation which produced the report i mentioned a while ago. he's been intpofrplg us time ang us time and time again of the way in which sex trafficking has
11:34 am
morphed. one website in particular came up time and time again, and the name is no stranger to the senate or the congress. it's backpage, a notorious publication now on line which is responsible for three-quarters of all child trafficking reports. it eventually came clear that even though that site was actually helping sell young women for sex and even though the victims and their families were suing backpage, none of the lawsuits were successful because of what some people are coming to believe is an outdated immunity protection for technology providers under the communications decency act that i mentioned a moment ago. the original law was intended to protect free speech online, which is important. i'm a firm believer in the first amendment, as i know we all are, but free speech is no license to engage in criminal activity. at last count, 67 senators have joined our effort as cosponsors.
11:35 am
we are joined in support of sesta by antihuman trafficking advocates, law enforcement, state attorneys general, the civil rights community, faith-based groups, and tech companies like facebook and oracle. our colleague from oregon has introduced two amendments which i strongly urge my colleagues to oppose. the first would appropriate new money for the attorney general to investigate and prosecute website operators that criminally facilitate sex trafficking. the problem is that would violate the blue is slip rule -- blue slip rule and subject the bill to a point of order. in other words, there are constitutional issues raised about where that sort of legislation would originate. it has to originate in the house. it would almost certainly guarantee the demise of of this legislation. in other words, it's a poison pill. it's not that we won't support
11:36 am
funding to prosecute traffickers. we'll be providing ample funding to the department of justice later this week. those funds should be appropriated through the usual process and handed over to officials who can use them effectively. the second amendment that will be offered is the bad samaritan amendment. this would prevent websites from being held accountable for ever efforts to moderate content even when efforts are taken in bad faith and miss their mark and instead protect sex traffickers. in some states courts found that sites like backpage should be moderated. but the bad samaritan amendment could protect platforms like from liability for bad-faith editing practices, leaving victims with even less of a recourse than they have today. simply put, it could eviscerate
11:37 am
the steps we are taking in sesta. i'm confident our colleague does not intend this result but that would be the consequence of adopting either one of those amendments. so i hope my colleagues will join me in voting in favor of sesta this week and opposing these amendments. that's the best way we can ensure these websites and online platforms can be held accountable for facilitating sex trafficking. mr. president, later today the senate will be voting on a privilege resolution that i spoke on yesterday offered by three of our colleagues. simply put, it would direct the president to cut off all u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen. some people may be looking at a world map to figure out where yemen is and what the import of
11:38 am
this conflict may be. but suffice it to say that this is another proxy war being conducted against the u.s. and its allies by iran. now, in yemen just to the south of saudi arabia, our ally. so the motion to table -- i was interested to hear my friends from connecticut and vermont suggested that the motion to table would stop debate. that's not exactly true. twha it would do is -- what it it would do is facilitate full debate and full consideration of the merits of the underlying resolution, starting with the foreign relations committee. it's very unusual for resolutions like this to come immediately to the floor where you have 100 senators voting on it because, frankly, not all of us are as up to speed on the details of this or what the unintended impact might be, as
11:39 am
the foreign relations committee that's set up for the purpose of examining legislation with regard to our international relationships and matters like this. but this is an important and timely matter as high-level saudi officials are in washington this week. the crown prince was scheduled to meet with president trump today. i met with him this morning along with other members of the senate foreign relations committee. saudi arabia is an important partner in our counterterrorism operations. and as a counter point to iran. in yemen, we see both terrorist operations -- that's isis and al qaeda -- in iran actively deploying missiles using yemen as a launching pad to shoot missiles into saudi arabia. is i mentioned before that our support for the saudi coalition is gnarl role circumscribed. it currently takes the form of intelligence sharing, military
11:40 am
advice and logistical support including air-to-air refueling. this is part of a plan that started under the obama administration and now is continued under the trump administration, not to put american troops on the ground, boots on the ground, as we frequently refer to it, but rather to facilitate our allies by working by, with, and through those allies to address the threat not only to them, but ultimately to the united states and peace in the region. the role we play in yemen is clearly a noncombat support role, and it's meant to minimize civilian casualties by improving the processes and procedures and increasing compliance with the international law of armed conflict. in other words, we're trying to help them target the terrorists and the iranian-backed rebels and not innocent civilians, something they're not able to do
11:41 am
as well without our assistance. contrary to the resolution's sponsors claims, the u.s. is not engaged in hostilities in yemen as has been traditionally understood, since it's not in direct conflict with the houthi rebels. we're not fighting the houthi rebels. u.s. soldiers and airmen are not fighting the houthi rebels directly. we're providing support. proponents of this legislation rightly point out that there is currently a humanitarian crisis in yemen. unfortunately, what they sometimes leave out is that humanitarian crisis only started when the iranian backed rebels overthrew the existing government. our military assistance is helping the saudis and targeting to help prevent civilian casualties, to help restore law and order and create conditions necessary to provide aid. let's remember too it was president obama that first implemented the refueling and logistical support policy, so this is not a political matter.
11:42 am
there's no real difference in the way that the obama administration and the trump administration provided this support by, with, and through our allies, the saudis and the emiratis. and it's clear why this has been the policy of the last two administrations. yemen is a place of great geopolitical concern. when i visited bahrain reasonability with our colleagues -- recently with our colleagues, visited the fifth fleet there that's housed in bahrain, we heard concerns about a choke point near an area called the bab al mandem. i probably butchered that pronunciation but we heard more frequently about the straits of hormuz through which a lot of world's commerce and oil flows. bab al mandeb is off to the east of yemen. it's only 18 miles at its
11:43 am
narrowest point and connects the red sea to the indian ocean. it's one of the reasons it's so important geopolitically because 3.8 million barrels of oil pass through each day, many of them in route to the suez canal and beyond. bab al mandeb shows the geopolitical importance of yemen and the surrounding region. when the rebels attempt to shut down shipping through this passage, the impact is global, including on the united states, and our nation has every right to be concerned. but i fear the resolution i mentioned deals with our shared concerns in the wrong way. we're all, we all want to avoid civilian casualties. most everyone is aware yemen has been suffering from a severe humanitarian crisis for years, including a terrible cholera outbreak. but if we were to remove u.s. involvement and logistical support for the saudi coalition,
11:44 am
the humanitarian crisis would likely get even worse. the department of defense has critiqued the resolution. the resolution we'll be voting on. on the ground it would undermine our ability to foster long-term relationships with allies in the gulf region. it would -- we also benefit from increased interoperability and burden sharing and strong security architect -- architect tours throughout the world. in other words, the alliances we have in the middle east to fight the enemies of isis and al qaeda and to try to contain iran which has been at war with the united states since 1979, the iranian revolution in one form or another, all of these are on the table and all of these should be matters of our concern. but they're best considered, at least initially, in the context of the foreign relations committee. then they can make a recommendation to us. we can have the sort of of
11:45 am
fulsome debate that people have come to expect in the united states senate, i hope, on matters of global importance. so all the reasons i've mentioned here suggest that the need for our auxiliary and limited role in yemen remains important. secretary mattis, the secretary of defense says a withdrawal of our noncombatant in yemen could embolden yebles in the area and able further missile strikes on saudi arabia, our ally. and threaten the shipping lanes in the red sea, like the one at bab elmandeb. i hope our colleagues will vote for a tabling of this resolution which it does not cut off debate, but just moves that debate, at least initially to the foreign relations committee wherein under the able leadership of chairman corker
11:46 am
and ranking member menendez, i have every confidence that they will explore every nook and cranny of this issue and come out with a reasoned and reasonable recommendation to the united states senate and the congress on how the u.s. government should conduct itself. i believe in a strong congressional role when it comes to wars and military conflict. this has been a fight, though, that's been going on for a long time between the executive branch and the legislative branch. we have the ultimate tool. we can cut off money, but that's rather a blunt instrument. and i think that the administration, this administration like previous administrations, needs to recognize that the congress is a partner in making these decision, not an adversary. and it's important that we each play our respective role. and i'm confident that we will
11:47 am
play that role responsibly, which is really what this is all about. if the senate takes this vote and passes this resolution, we lose the chance for that kind of careful, deliberate, informed consideration that starts in our standing committees. we lose the chance to have the senate foreign relations committee issue a thoroughly researched recommendation. so i hope our colleagues will vote to table the resolution and not to close off debate but to insist this debate take place at least initially where it belongs in the senate foreign relations committee, and that that debate then continue among all 100 members of the united states senate, but it will be better informed, will be better prepared, and will be better able to prevent unintended consequences from taking a rash action like voting for the resolution today. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i note the absence of a
11:48 am
quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:49 am
11:50 am
11:51 am
11:52 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: mr. president, i want to thank senators lee, sanders, and murphy as well as the other cosponsors of the resolution that we are debating
11:53 am
for their commitment to elevating this debate in the united states senate. i agree with my colleagues that this is an important debate with significant implications. and as the elected representatives of the american people, we must serve as an effective check on the executive branch, fulfill our commitments to protect the national security interests of the united states and be responsive to our constituents. this debate is about how we best leverage the tools in our national security toolbox, including military tools to protect u.s. national security. although the resolution focuses on one particular element of u.s. policy, limited military support, basically refueling intelligence and advice to the saudi coalition, i encourage my colleagues to expand the aperture of this debate so that we may call on the administration to assert real leadership, diplomatic heft, and nonmilitary resources to move
11:54 am
the conflict in yemen towards a political tract. as a ranking member of the senate foreign relations committee, i remind my colleagues that it's this committee that has the jurisdiction over the questions of the use of force. i remind my colleagues that it is also under my leadership as chair of this committee that it twice voted on authorizations for the use of military force, one in 2013 in response to the use of chemical weapons against the syrian people and once in 2014 in response to the rapid rise and spread of the islamic state. i remind my colleagues of these two committee votes to underscore my commitment to open debate, my willingness to take tough votes, and my enduring commitment to a robust role for the legislative branch of the u.s. government and the use of force and oversight of that force. now, i'm pleased that chairman corker has agreed to hold a public hearing with administration witnesses on the war in yemen. i think a hearing before the
11:55 am
senate foreign relations committee is critically important. and to look at the u.s. military support of the saudi coalition and our overing u.s. policy for -- overarching policy. i appreciate the chairman has made a commitment to a markup in the committee in the near future over legislation that deals with the question of yemen. and i also welcome his commitment to mark up an aumf, authorization for the use of military force in the committee. those are significant and actually will go a long way towards an informed process about how we deal with this challenge. in considering senate resolution 54, i encourage my colleagues to assess the best way to promote core u.s. security interests in the middle east, including pushing back on iran's
11:56 am
aggressive and destabilizing actions across the region, countering terrorism and ensuring the freedom of navigation. to achieve these goals, our long-standing policy has been to partner with members of the gulf cooperation council to promote the security and stability of the arabian peninsula. as we consider this resolution, we must fully grasp the situation on the ground and the scope of attacks on one of our traditional security partners. saudi arabia has endured yemeni-originated attacks inside its territory on a scale that no american would accept. ballistic and scub missile attacks aimed at major saudi population centers, cross-border attacks by arraignian-backed houthis and those are significant. now, having said that, i share the concerns i think of a majority of my senate colleagues regarding the conduct of the saudi-led coalition operations, the unacceptable scale of civilian casualties, the severity of the humanitarian
11:57 am
crisis, and the seeming lack of momentum on all sides towards a political tract to negotiate an end to this conflict. the saudi coalition bears significant responsibility for the magnitude of human suffering, the scale of destruction in yemen. 75% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and more than eight million are on the brink of famine. the conditions have also led to the worst outbreak of cholera in modern history with an estimated one million people suspected to be infected. the houthis bear much responsibility for the violence. the saudi-led campaign has played a significant role in exacerbation, however, the current humanitarian catastrophe. we must remember that the houthis overthrough the internationally recognized and lawful government of yemen and continue the conflict by resisting a political solution. so we ask the saudis to have a political solution, but we need the houthis to engage in a political solution as well.
11:58 am
we also have to remember that the houthi insurgency is vastly expanded the opportunities for al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. and at the same time i worry that withdrawal of limited u.s. military support to the saudi coalition will weaken our leadership and our ability to influence a political and improve humanitarian conditions and could make the situation first. let's be cleareyed about who will most benefit from absence of american power. as has done in political vacuums around the region, iran will continue to expand its proxy power and through its revolutionary guard, iran will continue sending weapons. with an emboldened iranian patron, howptties will continue their campaign with yem 9/11 and their attacks on saudi arabia. meanwhile, other nations in the region will be left questioning the commitment of its long-term
11:59 am
security partner the united states. in saudi arabia's darkest hours, ballistic missiles are launched at major centers in saudia arabia and lebanese hi hezbollas on the border training houthi fight erstwhile iran continues to transfer lethal equipment. we risk sending a signal to our partners that the united states is not reliable. across the world from canada to the united kingdom, president trump has damaged our credibility as a reliable partner, even to some of our most stalwart allies. we must push against those concerns and show our allies that the united states upholds its international commitments. consideration of withdrawal of support for the saudi coalition must be taken in concert with other ways in which the united states is working to end this war. the totality of u.s. policy which i fear is lacking. the solution i believe is to bolster our diplomatic humanitarian and political presence to help solve this crisis and end the human
12:00 pm
suffering. to usurp practical concerted leadership. thus far the administration's approach has effectively abdicated leadership on the global stage. while we have heard senior officials assure us that there is no military solution to this conflict, any political settlement is necessary, this administration is actively dismantling the state department and antagonizing the united nations, the two entities that have the potential to play the most critical roles in moving towards a political settlement and addressing the humanitarian crisis. we have vacancies at the assistant secretary of the level for the middle east and the ambassador in ryad, a failure of leadership. with this dangerous approach to our diplomatic institutions, we will not be in a position to promote political solutions, and our military once again will be called on to do the critical work of diplomacy and development, distracting their attention from other pressing challenges. a failure of leadership.
12:01 pm
regarding a broader diplomatic strategy, the administration has also failed to develop a comprehensive strategy to confront iran, including holding iran accountable for continuing to provide missile supplies and lethal training to the houthis. across land and sea, we know lebanese hezbollah operatives are in yemen, and yet we have seen no sanctions and no action at the security council for this illicit illegal activity. the administration has not made one designation for iranian designation of arms embargoes as directed by the legislation passed here. again, a failure of leadership. i expect the administration to articulate and implement a comprehensive strategy for addressing yemen that includes requisite conditions for continuing to support the saudi coalition, a strategic push for a political settlement, efforts to alleviate the human suffering
12:02 pm
and comprehensive strategy to decisively push back on iran's destabilizing actions in yemen. this includes tough diplomacy with countries that will continue to facilitate or at a minimum fail to push back on iran's actions. i will continue pushing the administration to assert critical american diplomatic leadership rooted in the values of democracies, human rights and human dignity. so based upon chairman corker's commitments to those hearings and future markups and based upon the totality of the situation, i will vote to table the motion to discharge from the committee because i'm not ready to abandon our partners, but my support is not unconditional and i will demand responsive actions. i want to see, as i told the crown prince of saudi arabia earlier today, a renewed commitment in iraq and movement toward a political track by the saudi coalition. i want to see consistent
12:03 pm
demonstrations of commitment to humanitarian access in alleviating the humanitarian crisis. i want to see a follow-through in pledges of assistance to stabilize and rebuild yemen by the members of the saudi coalition. i want to see energy and diplomacy from the trump administration. this week's visit of crown prince mohammad bin salman is an opportunity to press forward on a path toward ending the war and addressing the civilian suffering. that certainly was my message to him. the limited support the united states provides is leverage. now the trump administration needs to use it. in conclusion, i invite my colleagues on the senate foreign relations committee to join me in holding the administration to account, in pushing the administration to use our leverage to drive this conflict towards a political track. i also invite my colleagues to join me in conducting oversight of our policies and programs to counter iran's activities in the region, including implementing
12:04 pm
catsa. i want to be very clear that my vote today is not a blank check for u.s. military support, nor an endorsement of the current policy and strategy. and finally not a thumbs up for the saudi coalition that we should continue business as usual. i expect to see improvements on all fronts as i previously stated. and i will review future decisions with respect to potential arms sales and other votes with that type of scrutiny. there is no more time to waste. we must move towards a political settlement to end the war in yemen and the people of yemen must see improvements in their situation immediately. i look forward to working with all of my colleagues to ensure they're working towards a policy that embraces american leadership in promoting a political solution and alleviating the devastating humanitarian suffering in yemen. and i look forward to this continuing debate before the senate foreign relations committee. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. corker: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corker: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from
12:05 pm
new jersey, my good friend, the ranking member on the foreign relations committee, for his comments. today we met with the crown prince of saudi arabia, very impressive young man who's transforming the country. we talked about the importance of our relationship, no doubt, but we strongly, strongly pushed back on what is happening right know in yemen and asked them to take strong corrective actions, so i was there when this occurred and certainly expressed the same. we also talked about the enrichment that they're pursuing and some of the concerns that existed there. i just want to thank the ranking member for his leadership and the words that he just gave. let me just speak to the debate we're having on the floor. this is a very entrepreneurial move. i don't say that to be pejorative. i know that one of the members is on the judiciary committee that is bringing this to the
12:06 pm
floor, and i can imagine some highly important judicial issue not being debated in the judiciary committee, but just being wafted to the floor for debate. i know that's not the way the judiciary committee operates. one of the other members is on the energy committee. i can imagine some complex cap and trade bill being offered. and instead of it being worked through the committee, or some ethanol bill or some other type of bill, instead of it being worked through the committee, somebody figures to bring it directly to the floor. so that's what's happening here today. i certainly don't shy away from this debate. i appreciate the fact that mitch mcconnell understood that very few members of our body, unless they're on the foreign relations committee, armed services committee or happen to take a particular interest, even know much about what's happening in yemen. and a lot is happening there. and so i appreciated the briefing that took place last week to give members a sense as
12:07 pm
to what is occurring there. but the proper way to deal with these issues is to deal with them in committee. you would think maybe there is e yemen legislation the committee is holding and not acting on. that's not the case. any of these members could have offered yemen legislation relative to this issue and committee would take it up. that has not occurred. so let me tell you what is happening in the committee. we have a -- we have a bill that is being worked on by senator young and senator shaheen dealing with this very issue. they're building support. they're working with the administration to make sure their definitions are correct. and they have had numbers of people involved with them. we plan to have a yemen hearing in the next few weeks to deal with this issue, but also to take up appropriate legislation. that is the way that we typically deal with issues of
12:08 pm
such importance. let me say this. this is an issue of great importance. it not only affects the tremendous humanitarian crisis that is occurring in yemen, the radicalization of the houthis supported by iran, a proxy of iran, but also saudi arabia's own security. it also affects the way we deal with other countries. i think many people here understand fully that right now, or recently we've been involved in the same kinds of activities with france as they dealt with issues in mali, refueling, helping them some with intelligence issues. and so this is something, again, that we need to take up in a serious way in the committee. the committee is committed to doing so. what i hope will happen today is that members of this body will let the foreign relations committee do its job and that we will bring a bill forth that we can properly debate and amend. so i'm hoping that later today that when i offer a tabling
12:09 pm
motion, members of this body will respect the members of the foreign relations committee that deal with this issue, let it go back to committee with the commitment that we plan to bring forth legislation to actually deal appropriately with many of the issues relative to yemen, saudi arabia, iran, and ourselves. let me mention one other thing. we have been working for some time to deal with the authorization for the use of military force. it's been an issue that's been before us for many years, and it's the replacement and revision of the o1o2 aumf. many people were concerned about this. we have activities taking place around the world based on those two authorizations. we have a markup on aumf on april 19 scheduled to try to revise so we can give people an
12:10 pm
opportunity to weigh in on this issue on the floor. by the way, the way the a.m.s. is being constructed at present, when we go into new countries, when we take on new groups, the senate would have the ability to weigh in on those issues. so i just would like to say to the body and those who are looking in, we are not shying away from this debate. there's been no legislation whatsoever that has been held up on this topic. legislation is being introduced soon in a bipartisan way to deal with this terrible issue that's taking place in yemen. we're going to have a hearing. we will have a markup. and in addition to that, we're going to have a markup on a new aumf to deal with the issues that our country is dealing with around the world with al qaeda, isis and other entities that have been associated parties. with that, mr. president, i just want to the let people know that that's kind of way we deal with
12:11 pm
things around here. none of us are happy with the current status, but i think a better way for us to come up with a prudent solution to what is happening there is to go through the normal committee process. i hope the other members of the body will respect that. i'm glad that, by the way, the ranking member -- by the way, this policy has been taking place in yemen. it started under the obama administration, the same exact policy. the senate has acted on it by voting for appropriations. so the it's not as if we have not taken action ourselves. we've done that through the mdaa. we've done that through various state department authorizations. so we've acted upon it. there are concerns about what's happening there. legislation is going to be introduced to try to deal with this, and that's the way we deal with complicated issues. no one is shying away from the debate. we just hope to table this and move it back and deal with it in the orderly, appropriate way.
12:12 pm
with that, mr. president, i have nine requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: noted. mr. corker: thank you, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:13 pm
12:14 pm
12:15 pm
quorum call:
12:16 pm
12:17 pm
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: are we in quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. durbin: i ask that it be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: this afternoon there will be a vote on the senate floor which is of historic importance. it's rare i use those words to describe what is going on in the senate chamber. it's equally rare for us to actually take up an issue and debate it in this chamber. but this afternoon we'll face a critical vote. i can recall as most members can many votes that they've cast in the course of service in the congress, both the house and senate. but the votes that cause lost sleep and worry time and again are votes involving war. you see, part of my
12:18 pm
responsibility in the senate shared by my colleagues under article 1, section 8, is to actually vote to decide whether the united states of america shall go to war. the founding fathers were explicit. they wanted to give to congress that responsibility so members of congress could represent their constituents, house districts and states that we all represent. and that created an opportunity, in fact, an obligation for us to really measure this grievous, important, historic decision against the feelings of the families who would be asked to support a war with their tax dollars or with the lives of people that they love. i can recall back in 2001 what occurred on 9/11. those of us alive on that date will never forget it. i also recall a year later, we
12:19 pm
faced a decision right here in the senate chamber about whether as a result of 9/11 we would go to war against iraq and afghanistan. there was a long debate about whether we should invade iraq. if you remember, the leaders in the government told us there were weapons of mass destruction which threatened the region and the world, including the united states. and if we didn't move into iraq and take out saddam hussein in his capacity, we would leave the united states in danger. the debate went on for a long period of time and the final vote was cast in the early morning hours in october of 2002. i remember it well. and for reasons i can't explain, i stayed on the floor after the vote. there were only two or three members of the senate still here. it was one of those moments where we had voted to go to war and weren't certain about what the next step would be. 23 of us, one republican and 22
12:20 pm
democrats voted against the invasion of iraq. i think it was one of the most important votes i ever cast. the representations about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false. we had no intelligence to back up that assertion, and that was the reason why we were off to war. well, here we are some 16 years later still engaged in a war in iraq. i don't believe there's a single member of the senate that night that cast a vote for the invasion of that country who believed that 16 years later we would still be engaged in a war in iraq. subsequently, there was a vote on the invasion of afghanistan. it was a different circumstance. we believe that afghanistan had literally been the sourcing point for the terrorist who struck us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 innocent americans. and the argument made by the administration is no one can do that to the united states of america without paying a price. and i joined the overwhelming
12:21 pm
bipartisan majority supporting the invasion of afghanistan to go after osama bin laden and al qaeda. i voted against invading iraq, voted for the invasion of afghanistan. but i could tell you i would never ever been able to stand here and say with any certainty that 16 years later we would still be engaged in a war in afghanistan. but we are. the obvious question to ask is, in 16 years of war in iraq and afghanistan and other places in the world, how many other times have the united states and house of representatives come together to debate the wisdom of a decision about continuing a war or declaring a war, and the answer is none, not once. for 16 years we have been observers and bystanders through presidents of both political parties and the congress has stood by and observed military action being taken all over the world. brown university did a survey of what they called cost of war project and recently published
12:22 pm
data saying that the united states fought terror in 76 countries it october 2015 and october 2017 using its own troops and bases through training of host country counterterrorism forces or through drone and air strikes. 76 different countries we were engaged in military operations. how often has the senate or the house come together to debate the wisdom or to even question whether those military actions were authorized? i think none. perhaps someone can point to one but i can't think of one time we've done it. this afternoon is going to be different because we are being asked as members of the senate whether we're going to exercise our constitutional authority and responsibility. when it comes to an ongoing war in a country that most americans couldn't find on the map, the kung of yemen. yemen, now, is embroiled in a civil war and an invasion by
12:23 pm
saudi arabia and we are part of that military operation. there's been no vote in the united states senate on those military activities. there is a loose connection to al qaeda which was referenced in the invasion of afghanistan as a rationalization for going after this terrorist operation now being found in yemen. but there's more to that war in yemen than just the presence of al qaeda. there is an ongoing surrogate battle between saudi arabia and iran and the united states is engaged. i believe we're engaged because of our friendship with saudi arabia. some have argued because we sold them the planes that we're now refueling, at the very least we ought to bring this case to the american people. that is our constitutional responsibility. and that's why this vote this afternoon is important. because we took an oath, each of
12:24 pm
us, when we became senators to uphold the constitution of the united states against enemies foreign and domestic. and that constitution says that the people of the united states, the ones i represent in illinois, the ones that are represented in oregon or in texas are going to have a voice in this decision through us, through our debate, through our decision. i thank the senators that brought this matter to the floor today. senator lee, a republican senator from the state of utah, senator sanders, democratic senator from vermont, senator murphy, another democratic senator from connecticut have joined in cosponsoring this effort. it really is going to put us to a test to justify what we are doing in yemen today. because what is happening in yemen has been characterized by the united nations as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and that's saying something. some eight million people are dying of famine in yemen because of this war.
12:25 pm
some 16 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance immediately. this is no skirmish. this is no just exchange of fire. this is cairn j and destruction -- carnage and destruction, the likes of the world has never seen, and we are part of it. if we are part of it and should be part of it, then we should make that decision as a senate and a house of representatives as the constitution requires. but going to the bleachers, standing by the sidelines and watching more and more military operations take place around the world without asserting our constitutional responsibility is a mistake. that's why i've cosponsored this measure this afternoon and look forward to voting for it to move forward. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, america is very involved in a war in yemen, and it's time that we have the debate as envisioned under our constitution. our constitution did not lay out
12:26 pm
the power of deciding when to go to war with the executive branch. it places it very clearly here with article 1, congress to act. but we have participated very directly in partnership with saudi arabia and the assault on yemen, on the houthis, and the result is a dramatic, dramatic humanitarian crisis. and so we should absolutely hold that debate on this floor as envisioned in our constitution. article 1, section 8 states unequivocally that congress shall have power to declare war. it's only congress that is given this power under our constitution. if anyone has any doubts, then let's pay attention to the other words of our founders. james madison himself. in -- i quote if him. in no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the
12:27 pm
question of war and peace to the legislature and not to the executive department. now, the founding fathers' vision was reinforced by the war powers resolution of 1973, often referred to the war powers act. that act was necessary because the executive branch tends to put our forces into conflict without the permission of congress in violation of the constitution. and so it's important to lay out the parameters under which they were allowed to do so under emergency action and the circumstances under which they're not allowed to do so. now, the war powers act says it's the purpose of the resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the constitution of the united states and ensure that the collective judgment of both the congress and the president will apply to the introduction of the united states armed forces into hostilities. and it goes on to say that the
12:28 pm
constitutional powers of the president to introduce the united states armed forces in hostilities is clearly indicated by circumstances are exercised only -- only pursuant to a declaration of war, to a specific statutory authorizati authorization, or to a national emergency created by an attack upon the united states. now, in the case of the saudi war that we're participating in against the houthi, it's not triggered by an attack upon the united states. nor is there any specific statutory authorization. that's why we're going to have this debate today. nor is there a declaration of war. so the standards of the war powers resolution have not been met. and i call upon my colleagues to shoulder your constitutional responsibility to have this debate and hold the executive accountable when they're violating the law of the united
12:29 pm
states of america. there are two components to our presence in yemen which should not be confused. one is where we are directly involved against forces associated with al qaeda. this debate is not about that. the administration contends and we do not dispute today whether or not that is covered by the 2001 authorization for the use of military force. i think there are many of us that feel that initial 2001 aumf authorization for the use of military force has been stretched beyond recognition. that is a debate for a different day. this argument is directly about our support of saudi arabia in bombing the houthi in yemen. that is the central question. and for us to understand why this is so important, one, it's the integrity of the constitution. if we do not hold the executive
12:30 pm
accountable, the constitution of the united states of america, then we are essentially taking that key, critical clause that gave us responsibility for when military force is used by the united states. out of the constitution and delivering it to the executive. that certainly is not the vision. if people want to have that vision, then introduce a constitutional amendment to that point. introduce a resolution to declare war to make this action in concert with the constitution. create specific statutory authority in concert with the constitution. but do not fail your constitutional responsibility to hold this debate. under the war powers resolution, it lays out clearly that our
12:31 pm
participation into support of foreign forces engaged in hostilities is engagement under the vision of our constitution and certainly under the law of the war powers resolution. it says under section 8, authority to introduce united states armed forces into hostilities, into situations where involvement is clearly indicated by the circumstances shall not be inferred from any provision of law, including any provision contained in an appropriation act, unless such provision specifically authorizes the introduction of the united states armed forces into hostilities. again, specific authorization required. and as it goes on in this section titled interpretation of the joint resolution, it states, and i quote, the introduction of u.s. armed forces includes the assignment of members of such armed forces to command,
12:32 pm
coordinate, participate in the movement of or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country into hostilities. so clearly the law states that our engagement, our coordination with a foreign power engaged in war is covered by this act. our participation in the movement of their military forces into hostilities is covered by this act. so, therefore, we have to understand the details of our engagement. first, the united states is refueling the saudi planes as they go to bomb the houthis. that is very directly participation in the movement of military forces into engaged hostilities. we're refueling the planes in
12:33 pm
route. how can that not be participation in the movement? certainly a plane is a part of military force. certainly refueling it is participation in the movement of that plane. could this be any clearer? this is black and white. how many things are, in terms of the violation of the war powers resolution and the offense against our constitution, this is black and white. second, we provide intelligence. third, we provide the weapons. fourth, we provide targeting assistance. fifth, we establish a joint combined planning cell operation center in that military and intelligence activities and partnership with saudi arabia. all of that fits in to this direct section of the war powers act regarding coordination or participation in the movement of a foreign force engaged ph
12:34 pm
hostilities -- engaged in hostilities. now if this were a minor involvement, it's not. we have participated thousands of times in this manner. on a daily basis we're involved in coordination. and the airstrikes that saudi arabia are conducting have produced one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world. and you think about the reports on these different strikes. three airstrikes last month killing five civilians, wounding 14 more including four children as well as killing the paramedics who were trying to pull the survivors out after the first bomb dropped. or that we have a strike on a hotel last august that turned the building's ceiling black with the charred blood of 50 farmers who were in that building. it's one horrific circumstance after another as these bombs drop on civilians in yemen.
12:35 pm
it's time for us to reckon with the fact of our participation in this carnage. now this carnage has resulted in 10,000 yemeni civilians killed. and then you have eight million people on the brink of starvation. why is it that humanitarian aid has not gotten to those folks? because saudi arabia has blocked it. we're partnering with a country that is blocking humanitarian aid. does that square with the principles of the united states of america to participate in partnership with a country starving eight million people? and then we have the fact that the saudi bombs have been dropping on the infrastructure
12:36 pm
of yemen. they've destroyed the water systems. when you destroy the water systems, the sewage contaminates the fresh water and a direct consequence of that is cholera. at this moment the cholera epidemic in yemen has affected one million people. that is the single largest cholera epidemic in the recorded history of mankind. eight million people starving. a million people sick with the worst cole -- cholera epidemic ever. and we're participating in creating this. so to my colleagues who say, well, saudi arabia has partnered with us against isis, fine and good, as they should. however, this issue is
12:37 pm
different. this is about whether or not we are helping them and participating directly in the hostilities of dropping bombs on civilians, houthis, and creating a massive famine and a massive cole -- cholera epidemic and massive deaths. a lot of children are dying every day. the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency lead coordinator mark woolcock warned this famine could become the largest famine in the world, the largest famine the world has seen in many decades, with millions of victims. every day about 130 children are dying from hunger and disease. we pride ourselves on going to the assistance in the world when children are being slaughtered or starved or decimated by
12:38 pm
disease. in this case we are participating in this carnage. does any member of this senate want to stand up and say that that's an appropriate mission for the united states to participate in this carnage? i certainly hope not. the death and destruction in yemen is unimaginable. so it's appropriate that we debate on the floor the sanders-lee-murphy resolution, a bipartisan resolution, to say let's honor the constitution. let's abide by the 1973 war powers act. let's hold the administration accountable because it's not just this issue, though this issue is massive. it's also the standard by which the executive will operate in every potential war theater around the world for a decade to come. if we proceed to say it's okay
12:39 pm
that you trample the constitution here in yemen, that you disregard the war powers resolution here in yemen, then we're giving cart blanche to this administration to do so in one nation after another. we have long abdicated our responsibility. let's abdicate no more. play the role, the responsibility the founding fathers gave us in the constitution. and bring an end to our participation, without authorization, in this horrific conflict. thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate the previous order, the senate
12:40 pm
lawmakers will return at 2:15 p.m. eastern for more work on the war powers resolution. a procedural vote is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. government funding expires this coming friday and we can do more about that at about 2 p.m. eastern from senate leaders as they reconvene this afternoon. senator bernie sanders starts off the game at war powers debate today as he and others spoke on the senate floor this morning. >> mr. president, pursuant to section 1013 of the department of state authorization act for fiscal years 1984 in 1985, and in accordance with the provisions of section 601b of the international security assistance on export control act of 1976, i make a motion to discharge senate joint resolution 54 from the committee


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on