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Republicans Move to Stymie Congress’ Attempt to Reclaim Article I War Powers

Within a few days of Congress returning from recess, House Republicans are once again undermining the document that conservatives promise time and time again to uphold -- the Constitution. This latest move comes despite the GOP losing control of the House just over a week ago for its leadership continually failing to uphold a number of conservative promises to the American people.

In a procedural rule vote on H.Res. 1142 that must pass in order for the House of Representatives to consider the one rule bill that it will vote on this week, members will be voting on deprivileging a bipartisan resolution, H.Con.Res. 138, that would end America’s undeclared, unauthorized, and unconstitutional involvement in the catastrophic civil war in Yemen absent explicit authorization to continue. The underlying bill that the rule would govern is the Manage our Wolves Act, H.R. 6784, which would remove the grey wolf from the endangered species list in the contiguous 48 states.

Evidently, the bill at hand has nothing to do with Yemen, war, or international affairs. The procedural move to quash Congress’ efforts to exercise its constitutionally-granted Article I war powers is clearly intended to slip through without members noticing, as rule votes are ordinarily on party lines. Instead, members should notice, vote to allow H.Con.Res. 138 to retain its privilege, and demand that Congress vote on the important question of our involvement in the civil war in Yemen.

This involvement takes the form of seemingly limitless support for the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts in the Yemeni civil war, during a time when public skepticism of America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has seeped into every corner of the media conversation. Deprivileging the resolution would deny members a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives to carry out their constitutional duty in the question of war or peace.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who is an original cosponsor of the resolution that is at stake in this procedural vote, is hard at work trying to hold Congress accountable to its war powers. In response to the news that the rule vote would include language to deprivilege H.Con.Res. 138, he has circulated a letter to his colleagues imploring them to vote “no” on the rule, H.Res. 1142. The vote will occur this afternoon.

In his letter, Rep. Massie wisely cites the Constitution, along with other writings of its often-credited father James Madison, to make his case to all conservatives. “Pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress alone has the authority to determine whether the United States shall use offensive military force,” the letter reads. “As James Madison wrote, ‘In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department.’”

These timeless and wise words unfortunately seem to ring hollow for many Republicans in Congress, however, including those who are moving now to prevent this important resolution from getting a vote and those who moved earlier this year to oppose a nearly identical resolution, S.J.Res. 54, championed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Senate.

For Republicans who care about the Constitution and their role in ensuring our government abides by it, supporting H.Con.Res. 138 and opposing efforts to block it should be a high priority. A robust debate over when, where, and why our men and women in the military put their lives on the line is the least that we can do for them. Republicans should demand a vote on America’s involvement in the Yemeni civil war, and this starts with opposing procedural efforts to deny this chance.