For the rest of 2018 and into 2019, America will continue to support Saudi Arabia’s devastating war on Yemen, thanks to a heartless move by Speaker Paul Ryan and a gutless decision by five Democrats to side with Republicans in a key vote.
On Wednesday, a procedural vote on the Farm Bill—an agricultural spending bill which passed with massive bipartisan support shortly afterward—effectively prevented the House from voting on a resolution to end the war in Yemen for the rest of this Congress’s session.
The procedural vote passed 206-203, despite the fact that 18 Republicans voted against it. Make no mistake: 201 Republicans still voted in favor of continuing to support military action that has killed tens of thousands and engendered widespread famine, but at this point we expect that kind of cruelty from them.
What put them over was the support of five House Democrats, who voted with the Republican majority to pass the Farm Bill rule change. If they had stuck with their party—and, more importantly, had any sense of conscience—there’s a very good chance a Yemen resolution could have made it to Trump’s desk before the end of the year. Now there is almost none.
How it happened was complicated, but here’s a short rundown. House Speaker Paul Ryan, because he is a ghoul, doesn’t support ending the war in Yemen. Ryan also selects the nine majority members of the House Rules committee, which gets to set the rules under which a bill will be voted on. On Tuesday night, House Rules stuck in a small part to the rules for the Farm Bill—which, again, was expected to pass (and now has passed) and has nothing to do with Yemen—that blocked the House from voting on a Yemen resolution sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna.
That rule change went to a vote on Wednesday afternoon, and immediately caused a stir. Over a dozen Republicans flipped to no votes right away, and several more followed, but ultimately, the five Democrats handed this one to Ryan.
As many disgusted analysts and reporters have pointed out, this didn’t need to happen. The farm bill would have passed, even if the Rules committee had to go back and haggle a bit more.
But Costa, Lawson, Peterson, Rupperberger and Scott decided that getting the Farm Bill through smoothly was more important than doing the bare minimum their legislative power could afford to stop a humanitarian crisis in which the U.S. has an incalculable amount of blood on its hands.
That’s largely because over in the Senate, even with a Republican majority, a parallel resolution sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee is expected to pass today. Earlier today, the Senate received 60 votes on a motion to keep amendments to the bill “germane,” basically meaning no one in the Senate is going to try to pull bullshit like this.
The bill has gained a swell of support in the Senate since Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi shook the diehard support some Republican lawmakers had for the KSA, putting enough pressure on the White House that Trump agreed to stop refueling Saudi war planes in early November.
The U.S. is still involved in the conflict in a myriad of other ways, though—including providing intelligence, training and weaponry—and a formal resolution going through Congress would limit those activities. Trump, of course, has said he’ll veto the bill, but getting it to his desk would have been a major political step for any lawmakers who would like to stop contributing to the deaths of children. Sanders’ bill may well pass the Senate today, but if it does, Paul Ryan’s bipartisan coalition of cowards has made certain there will be nowhere else for it to go.