While a vote in the U.S. Senate to push forward a War Powers Resolution on Wednesday resulted in applause from peace advocates and critics of U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen, five Democrats in the U.S. House stirred outrage as they helped Republicans in the chamber pass a rule—attached to massive Farm Bill legislation—that effectively killed the hopes of voting on its version of the resolution for the remainder of the congressional session.
"History will not look kindly on those who abdicated their constitutional duty to debate and vote our nation's wars in the name of petty politics and shoring up future campaign contributions from the arms industry and pro-Saudi lobbyists."
—Paul Kawika Martin, Peace ActionThe procedural vote in the Senate, said resolution co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), will help send a message to the world that the chamber will soon end its support for "this brutal, horrific war in Yemen led by an undemocratic, despotic regime."
But in the House, say critics, the five Democrats—Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Al Lawson (Fla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Dutch Rupperberger (Md.), and David Scott (Ga.)—sent the exact opposite message by backing the GOP-led effort to kill the resolution.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes was just one of the journalists and other experts following the story who expressed outrage about the House vote.
"There is literally no domestic constituency of actual voters who are agitating for the U.S. to continue facilitating the bombardment and starvation of Yemen," Hayes tweeted. He added, "What a despicable sham."
What a despicable sham. What the hell is the point of Congress? Why are we starving children? Someone make some affirmative argument for the policy, if you think it’s so important to continue killing children. But to kill the possibility of a vote in the rules committee? Cowards.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 12, 2018
The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported that after the vote it was the "angriest at leadership I've seen progressive House aides and members in a long time." And with the final vote 206-203—a margin where the Democratic votes made the crucial difference—one of those aides told him that was "not a coincidence."
And Matt Fuller of the Huffington Post added:
Kind of amazing that Democrats bailed Republicans out on this one.
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This was a clear winning issue for Democrats.
Does the voting public support Republicans sliding in language to a farm bill rule to subvert the War Powers Act and block any debate on Yemen?
Way to go, Congress.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) December 12, 2018
Stein asked Rep. Peterson directly why he voted the way he did, to which the congressman responded, in part: "I don't know a damn thing about" the war in Yemen but dismissed the resolution to end U.S. complicity in the world's worst humanitarian disaster as an off-topic "tangent."
Full transcript below. Some estimates say more than 50,000 civilians have died in Yemen pic.twitter.com/rR2ezICtv2
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) December 12, 2018
"Just to be extremely clear about what happened here," explained Stein in a separate tweet: "The farm bill was going to pass regardless of the outcome of this vote. In other words, these 5 Democrats could have voted both for the farm bill and against blocking a vote on Yemen. It's not like they were incompatible."
Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs for Peace Action, said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, his fellow Republicans, and the five Democrats who voted with them "are condemning more Yemeni civilians to die horrible deaths, and condemning our nation as a democracy in name only. History will not look kindly on those who abdicated their constitutional duty to debate and vote our nation's wars in the name of petty politics and shoring up future campaign contributions from the arms industry and pro-Saudi lobbyists."