Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a combat veteran, released the following statement about her vote against “the Sanders-Lee Yemen Resolution” that invokes the 1973 War Powers Resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 54) and her co-sponsorship of the Joint Resolution “Supporting a Diplomatic Solution in Yemen and Condemning the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi” (Senate Joint Resolution 69):
“I condemn the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and support a diplomatic solution to the war in Yemen. That is why I cosponsored a resolution that explicitly calls for a diplomatic solution to the war in Yemen, while also holding the Saudi Crown Prince responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. By cosponsoring Resolution 69, I am supporting peace talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels in Sweden, which are showing significant promise – including a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah, which was agreed to yesterday.
“Some of my colleagues pushed to make the Yemen resolution a referendum on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi; however, invoking the War Powers Resolution when our troops are not engaged in hostilities sets a bad precedent and could hamstring U.S. strategic goals in the region.”
S.J. Res. 54, “the Sanders-Lee Yemen Resolution” uses the War Powers Resolution to justify withdrawing support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. In her statement about this resolution on November 30, 2018, Senator Ernst explained that she voted against this resolution “because U.S. forces are not directly engaged in hostilities in Yemen, the premise of the resolution is flawed,” and because “members of the coalition in Yemen are strategic allies to the U.S. and greatly assist our counterterrorism and stability operations in the region.”
In addition to not directly citing Jamal Khashoggi, S.J. Res 54 also adopted an amendment which defined “hostilities” to include refueling Saudi aircraft, something that the United States is no longer doing; thanks in part, to Senator Ernst’s engagement earlier this year with Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo to request that the United States cease its refueling support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the United States recently announced that support would no longer be provided by the United States, with Saudi Arabia now taking full responsibility for refueling missions connected to the civil war in Yemen.
Through her actions, Senator Ernst has supported holding Saudi Arabia accountable and finding a diplomatic solution to the war in Yemen, but believes that invoking the War Powers Resolution in the way it is used in S.J. Res. 54 is setting bad precedent and is not the appropriate vehicle for holding Saudi Arabia accountable.