"It was really an outrage."
That's how Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) responded Thursday to House Republicans' successful efforts to block a vote on his war powers resolution that aimed to end U.S. support for the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition's bombing of Yemen, which has produced the world's worst humanitarian crisis and put some 14 million civilians at risk of starving to death.
On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee advanced legislation to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list, but inserted language that also would effectively prevent a floor vote on Khanna's resolution. Wednesday evening, the House approved the rule 201-187.
"We've never seen those kinds of shenanigans with a war powers resolution," Khanna said of the Republicans' maneuvering on Democracy Now! Thursday morning. "They're not just hurting children in Yemen and the humanitarian crisis—they're undermining their own role as members of Congress."
Rep. @RoKhanna responds to Republicans shutting down debate on a House resolution aiming to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen: "It was really an outrage… The Republicans didn't allow us to have that vote because they feared they would have Republican defections." #DNlive pic.twitter.com/RHFiVeWK6B
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) November 15, 2018
"Let's be very clear: This is unprecedented... This is basically rendering ineffectual the War Powers Act," Khanna said on the House floor Wednesday evening. With this move, he argued, the GOP-controlled chamber is essentially saying that "if the president of the United States and the speaker believe we should be at war, we should be at war. It doesn't matter what members of Congress think."
It’s shameful that @SpeakerRyan and House Republicans denied Congress the chance to do our constitutional duty while millions of lives are at stake in Yemen. History will remember this abdication of duty. pic.twitter.com/HwURmGwjk3
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) November 14, 2018
In terms of next steps, Khanna said that the Senate may take up a version of the resolution by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and if the upper chamber passes it, "we will bring it up again in the House before the lame-duck session ends because we don't have time to waste." If the Senate doesn't vote, or rejects Sanders' resolution, Khanna said he will push for a vote when Democrats take control of the House in January.
Although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last week that the U.S. would halt the refueling of the coalition's aircraft, as Khanna emphasized Thursday, "that's not a binding decision." In fact, "one of the reasons that Pompeo and Mattis called for a ceasefire of violence is they knew they were losing support in Congress. They knew that this war powers resolution was pending, that it was going to come for a vote, that they have 15 to 20 Republicans defecting—many from the Freedom Caucus—and they wanted to try to preempt that," Khanna claimed.
"When the new Congress convenes next year, ending all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's devastating war in Yemen should be the first order of business."
—Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action
As Paul Kawika Martin of Peace Action pointed out, "House Speaker Paul Ryan's office cited the administration's recent decision to end U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in the war in Yemen as a reason for de-privileging the Yemen war powers resolution, but other forms of U.S. support for the coalition—arms sales, intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and political support—are still fueling the world's worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen."
"When the new Congress convenes next year, ending all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's devastating war in Yemen should be the first order of business," Martin added. While anti-war activists have fought for years to end U.S. complicity in the war and the subsequent humanitarian crisis, Saudi Arabia has garnered heightened media attention and criticism from the American public since Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.
"His last column in the Washington Post was calling for the end of the barbaric campaign in Yemen," Khanna noted. "He was murdered precisely because he was speaking for hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians who didn't have a voice, and I'm glad that Khashoggi's murder has awakened the conscience of the United States and the world community about what was going on in Yemen."
"But the way we honor Khashoggi is not simply to seek retribution for the killers who took his life," the congressman concluded. "It's to make sure that the killers who are taking the lives of children in Yemen and hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians are brought to justice and that that stops."