Fifty-six senators voted Thursday to end American support for the war in Yemen, a direct rebuke to President Trump and the Washington foreign policy establishment. This historic vote also undercut Republican leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never wanted the bill to pass.
But McConnell’s hemming and hawing was nothing compared to the stunt House Republican leaders had pulled the day before.
“Speaker Ryan is not allowing a vote on my resolution to stop the war in Yemen because many Republicans will vote with us and he will lose the vote,” thundered Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna on the House floor Wednesday.
“He is disgracing Article 1 of the Constitution,” Khanna said. “As a result, more Yemeni children will die.”
Khanna was blasting what he called Republican leaders’ “parliamentary tricks” to bypass congressional war powers in regard to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday night, Speaker Ryan and GOP leadership snuck a provision into the farm bill that would have protected current U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia. Khanna and Republican Thomas Massie countered the move with a resolution of their own, which eventually did receive a vote, yet still failed 206 to 203.
“By a vote of 206 to 203 congress just flushed our War Powers down the toilet. SAD!” tweeted Massie after the vote. Antiwar Republican Congressman Walter Jones said, “This extraordinary and reckless move by leadership is a slap in the face to both the Constitution and the War Powers Act.”
Khanna was right that Speaker Ryan likely feared that too many Republicans might oppose him on this front, thanks in no small part to the stewardship of some of the GOP’s top conservatives. He was right that Republican leaders and a number of Democrats undermined Congress’s constitutional war-making duties.
Here’s what our government is lending its support to: according to UNICEF, about 2,400 children have been killed and 3,600 injured since 2015 due to U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes. The Saudi war on Yemen war has also caused nearly a quarter million people to live under famine conditions.
The ironic, yet still tragic, way in which House Republican leaders snuck this through is worth noting.
The farm bill, with its Great Depression origins of subsidizing farmers and Great Society legacy of promulgating food stamps, was hijacked this week to try to ensure that a policy that has resulted in disease and death for thousands will continue.
At this point it’s worth asking—what does “America First” truly mean?
But this isn’t a case where we are restraining ourselves from intervening in a bad situation. Our government is acting as the primary enabler of what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, quite a different matter.
There are many reasons to oppose the farm bill, which has long been one of the most popular bipartisan big government laws in Washington. And most conservatives worth their salt do.
The majority of Republicans and Democrats who do vote for it, every time, generally claim it is good for farmers and ostensibly good for what many farmers do—feed people.
House Republican leadership pushed the bill through Wednesday featuring a provision that does the exact opposite. Starving other countries shouldn’t be U.S. policy.
“Every 10 minutes a Yemeni child is dying,” Ro Khanna said on the House floor Wednesday. “This is why people hate Congress,” he added, disgusted with the whole process.
It is also, tragically, something that will cause people abroad to hate the United States.