President Joe Biden is facing backlash from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for not seeking Congressional approval prior to authorizing military strikes against targets controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.
President Biden announced Thursday night that the United States and the U.K., with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain, and Australia, engaged in joint strikes against Houthi targets in an effort to degrade the Islamist group’s ability to conduct attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea.
The Houthis have attacked more than two dozen commercial vessels in the Red Sea since mid-November, which the Biden administration said constitutes “an international challenge.”
“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let our message be clear: we will not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats,” the Biden administration’s joint statement reads.
Following the strikes, several Congressional Democrats and Republicans slammed Biden for not coming to Congress to gain authorization to launch the strikes.
“Unacceptable,” Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley wrote on X Thursday.
“[The president] must get approval from Congress before authorizing military strikes in Yemen or any other country. The people do not want more endless wars,” Pressley wrote.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the strikes “an unacceptable violation of the Constitution.”
“Article 1 requires that military be authorized by Congress,” Jayapal wrote.
California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna also criticized the president on the constitutionality of the strikes, stating that “The President needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another middle east conflict.”
“I will stand up for that regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House,” the progressive lawmaker added.
Khanna’s statement garnered approval from conservative Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who wrote on X Thursday that “Ro is absolutely correct on this.”
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) also applauded Khanna for “sticking to his principles” in criticizing the strikes, despite the president being a member of his own party.
“Only Congress has the power to declare war,” Massie wrote. “I have to give credit to [Rep. Ro Khanna] here for sticking to his principles, as very few are willing to make this statement while their party is in the White House.”
Other lawmakers who criticized the strikes include Republican Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), and Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), as well as Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Val Hoyle (Ore.).
Some critics pointed to Biden’s apparent hypocrisy due to a January 2020 post on X — then Twitter — from Biden in which he criticized President Trump for not seeking Congressional approval for conducting an airstrike to assassinate the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
“A president should never take this nation to war without the informed consent of the American people,” Biden wrote in the 2020 post.
Several members of Congress did commend the strikes, however — including Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who called the move an “overdue response” to the Houthi’s aggression in the region.
“Iran and its proxies must understand that repeated attacks on U.S. troops and the disruption of critical sea lanes will not be tolerated,” Sen. Collins, Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a Thursday statement.
“The United States does not seek an escalation of violence in the region, but we must deter attacks on our troops, and the freedom of navigation that is essential for global trade must be restored,” Collins said.
The other members of Maine’s Congressional delegation, Sen. Angus King and Democratic Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree have not yet issued official statements on the strikes as of Friday afternoon, and did not respond to requests for comment from the Maine Wire.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote on X Thursday that he was “very supportive” of the strikes, and called on the Biden administration to “continue using military force in the face of aggression from Iran and their proxies.”
Maine State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), a frequent critic of U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts, slammed Sen. Graham over his support for the strikes.
“There has never been a greater cheerleader for war — a greater chicken hawk who never served — ready to see millions die in quest for empire and war profits,” Sen. Brakey wrote in response to Graham on X Friday.
Brakey also called on President Biden to be impeached for “launching a war in Yemen without Congressional approval.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, said in a Thursday statement that the strikes “were necessary to maintain stability and security in the Gulf.”
“The U.S. has dealt with this aggression for far too long, and it is in our nation’s interests to maintain the free flow of commerce,” Rep. Gallego stated. “Terrorism has no safe harbor anywhere.”