Kaine questions Biden on ‘legal rationale’ for Yemen strikes

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) signaled Sunday that the Senate will press the White House over military action in Yemen in the coming days as scrutiny mounts on President Biden’s response to Houthi militant attacks without congressional approval.

The Biden administration has led multiple airstrikes against Houthis in Yemen and said they will escalate if the group does not cease its attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

“There’s no congressional authorization for a war in Yemen or the Red Sea against the Houthis. None,” Kaine said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The president has asserted that these strikes are about self-defense, and they’re designed to deter the Houthis, but the administration has also said that they believe that the attacks are going to continue and even escalate.”

“What’s the strategy? What’s the plan for de-escalation?” Kaine continued. “If the U.S. is going against the Houthis to protect shipping, shipping of other nations, what are other nations doing as part of this mission?”

He also urged the Biden administration to make clear the “legal rationale” for the strikes without congressional consent.

Kaine was joined by Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Wednesday in a letter to Biden questioning the military operation in the Red Sea.

The senators condemned Houthi attacks on commercial shipping and acknowledged the U.S. can carry out defensive strikes to protect its troops and assets under Article 2 of the Constitution — but raised questions about the authority to strike the Houthis when the rebels are mainly targeting international ships and not American ones.

“There is no current congressional authorization for offensive U.S. military action against the Houthis,” the senators wrote. “While the Houthis and their backers, namely Iran, bear the responsibility for escalation, unless there is a need to repel a sudden attack the Constitution requires that the United States not engage in military action absent a favorable vote of Congress.”

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