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Biden faces backlash for unilateral Yemen strikes, igniting constitutional debate

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A bipartisan wave of criticism has engulfed President Joe Biden for his decision to greenlight military strikes against Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen without seeking prior congressional approval.

The move has reignited a longstanding debate over the constitutional authority to declare war in the United States, prompting lawmakers to condemn what they view as an infringement on the constitutionally mandated role of Congress in authorizing military actions.

President Biden, supported by the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain, announced a series of air and naval strikes in response to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea during Israel’s conflict in Gaza. While Biden notified Congress, he did not formally request its approval, leading to swift criticism from lawmakers such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who labeled it an “unacceptable violation of the constitution.”

In defense of his decision, Biden cited the unprecedented Houthi attacks on international maritime vessels and emphasized the threats posed to US personnel, civilian mariners, trade, and freedom of navigation. The strikes, supported by some lawmakers like Senator Mitch McConnell, were deemed “overdue” and necessary to deter Iran. However, other members of Congress, both progressive and conservative, expressed their dissatisfaction with the president’s failure to seek congressional authorization.

Key figures like Congressman Gregory Meeks supported the military strikes but urged the Biden administration to continue diplomatic efforts to prevent further escalation and engage Congress in accordance with legal requirements. The debate over presidential authority in matters of war has deep historical roots, with critics like Representative Ro Khanna emphasizing the constitutional duty of the president to seek Congress’s approval before engaging in military actions.

The backlash against Biden’s decision extends beyond party lines, with both progressive Democrats and some House Republicans, including Matt Gaetz and Mike Lee, expressing dismay. The controversy highlights a broader debate that dates back to the Vietnam War, with lawmakers consistently accusing administrations of overstepping their bounds by engaging in military conduct without explicit congressional approval.

As the fallout from these Yemen strikes unfolds, critics point to President Biden’s previous statements, including a 2020 tweet emphasizing the need for congressional approval before engaging in war.

The political ramifications of this unilateral decision echo recent discontent within the Democratic party over the administration’s approval of tank shell sales to Israel during the conflict in Gaza. Barbara Lee, a vocal advocate for limiting presidential war-making authority, underscores the urgency of seeking a ceasefire to prevent further escalation in the region.

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