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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joins Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Jan. 30, 2019, to reintroduce a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joins Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Jan. 30, 2019, to reintroduce a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (AP)

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joins Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Jan. 30, 2019, to reintroduce a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 2, 2020

Bernie Sanders’ voting record on wars is mixed

If Your Time is short

  • Sanders’ record on major war authorization votes is actually mixed.
     
  • He cast votes affirming military actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and after 9/11. However, he voted against entering the Persian Gulf War in 1991, against entering the Iraq War in 2002, and successfully led the charge to pass a measure that would have removed U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in 2018.

A shareable image circulating on social media claims that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders "voted in favor of every war during his tenure" in Congress. "Just like the rest."

Sanders portrays himself as an opponent of open-ended military intervention overseas; his campaign website’s issues page says he will "follow the American people, who do not want endless war." 

But the post is incorrect about his record. (The Sanders campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Sanders has had a long career in Congress, first serving in the House between 1991 and 2007, and since then in the Senate, representing Vermont. His party affiliation in Congress is as an independent, but he caucuses with Democrats and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

When we looked at some of the major war-related votes Sanders has taken, we find that he did vote in support of some of them, but he also voted against others. Here’s a rundown:

Votes against wars

Persian Gulf War, 1991: Sanders voted against authorizing the war. 

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Iraq War, 2002: Sanders voted against authorizing the war.

War in Yemen, 2018: Not only did Sanders vote to end U.S. military support for Saudia Arabia’s war in Yemen, but Sanders was the lead sponsor of the bill. He managed the unusual feat of securing bipartisan support for the measure during the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump eventually vetoed the resolution and the Senate was unable to override his veto.

Votes for wars

Bosnia War, 1998. This measure was for removing military forces after they were already there. It failed, but Sanders voted against it. So he voted in favor of staying. He joined most Democrats in voting against it, effectively supporting President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Kosovo War, 1999Sanders voted yes on this measure to authorize the war, which failed in the House. Here, too, Sanders joined most Democrats in voting to back the use of force by Clinton.

Post-9/11 authorization for the use of military force, 2001: Sanders voted in favor. Only one House member, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., voted against the measure.

Our ruling

The post says that Sanders "voted in favor of every war during his tenure."

That’s incorrect. Sanders’ record on major war authorization votes is actually mixed. While he cast votes affirming military actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and after 9/11, Sanders voted against entering the Persian Gulf War in 1991, against entering the Iraq War in 2002, and successfully led the charge to pass a measure that would have removed U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in 2018.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Congressional Research Service, "Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications," April 18, 2014

Congressional Research Service, "U.S. Armed Forces Abroad: Selected Congressional Votes Since 1982," Jan. 9, 2020

Cato Institute, "Congress Surrenders the War Powers Libya, the United Nations, and the Constitution," Oct. 27, 2011

NPR, "Senate Votes To End U.S. Support For War In Yemen, Rebuking Trump And Saudi Arabia," Dec. 12, 2018

Politico, "Senate fails to override Trump's veto on Yemen," May 2, 2019

Bernie Sanders presidential campaign website, issues page, accessed Feb. 29, 2020

Roll call votes linked in text

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Bernie Sanders’ voting record on wars is mixed

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