This time around, with the Democrats controlling the House, some of those dissenters are seeking ways to hold the Saudi government accountable without invoking the War Powers Act. Mr. Menendez and Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, introduced legislation last week that would impose broader sanctions on the Saudi government, including a ban on American refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen, without calling for a removal of military support.
Some senators frustrated with the administration’s response have refused to back the resolution, arguing that the invocation of the War Powers Resolution must be evaluated independently from their discontent with the White House.
“I think that’s separate — it has to be, from a point of pragmatism — from Mr. Khashoggi and his murder,” Mr. Rubio, who will not support the measure, said on Tuesday.
The House enacted the War Powers Resolution by overriding President Richard M. Nixon’s veto. The resolution grew out of frustration that Congress’s role in deciding when the country would go to war had eroded during the first decades of the Cold War, when presidents of both parties began dispatching troops into combat, including the Korean War, without lawmakers’ permission.
Among other things, the War Powers Resolution says presidents may unilaterally deploy troops into combat situations only if the United States has been attacked, and it created a mechanism for Congress to direct a deployment’s immediate termination. The House measure says that American military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition counts as a deployment into unauthorized hostilities under the War Powers Act and must end.
Unlike many recent disputes over presidential war powers — such as the legal basis for the Obama and Trump administrations’ war against the Islamic State — the current debate does not turn on how far the executive branch may stretch the 2001 and 2002 authorizations to use military force against Al Qaeda and Iraq. The Houthi rebel forces in Yemen have no connection to those two conflicts.
The Trump administration, however, has said that it can rely on congressional authority from other statutes, including one that permits the Pentagon to provide logistical assistance to allies, as a basis for its help to the Saudi-led coalition.