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Paul Ryan’s One Parliamentary Trick To Block Congress From Challenging Saudi Arabia’s War In Yemen

As the United States Senate was about to advance a war powers resolution against the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives sabotaged any further votes against the war in the House.

Representative Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders in the House took the unconventional route of tucking language into a rule that applied to the farm bill. The rule passed by a very narrow vote of 206-203.

The language said provisions of the war powers resolution process “shall not apply during the remainder of the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress to a concurrent resolution introduced…with respect to Yemen.”

Nearly all Democrats in the House voted against the rule except for five Democrats—Representative Jim Costa, Representative Al Lawson, Representative Collin Peterson, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, and Representative David Scott.

Peterson claimed he didn’t know a “damn thing” about the provision before it was added, but he clearly did not understand the seriousness of his vote. “All it did say was that they couldn’t have a vote or something.”

In November, the GOP engaged in a similar maneuver. While the Yemen war powers resolution picked up momentum in the Senate, they stuck a provision to block votes against the war in a bill involving wolves.

Perhaps, this is how the outgoing Speaker of the House expresses his gratitude for a Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service that was bestowed upon him on November 28.

Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat who has been one of the principal sponsors of an anti-war resolution in the House, reacted, “Americans around this country are wondering what does a farm bill have to do with the war in Yemen, and the answer is absolutely nothing.”

“You wonder why people are frustrated with Congress, why they think Congress lacks common sense. It’s because no one understands why you would have a vote on a farm bill, and you would tie it to a vote on war and peace in Yemen.”

“The only reason the leadership is doing this is because they know that there are dozens of Republicans that will stand with Democrats to stop the killing in Yemen. How do they know this? Because Senate Republicans are voting to stop the killing in Yemen,” Khanna added.

Indeed, the war powers resolution sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Mike Lee passed in the Senate by a vote of 60-39. Seven Republicans voted to advance the resolution.

It previously advanced in November with 63 votes, and when that happened Republican Senator Bob Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, allowed the resolution to be discharged from the committee so it could be voted on by the full Senate (even though he has voted against the resolution).

Republican Representative Thomas Massie, who partnered with Khanna on the war powers resolution, contended the provision in the farm bill violated the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973.

“Just when you thought Congress couldn’t get any swampier, we continue to exceed even the lowest expectations.”

Massie noted this was not the first time. Ryan put language to block a war powers resolution vote into the Manage Our Wolves Act.

“What this means is that our leadership decided that the House just doesn’t need to vote on whether U.S. soldiers, personnel, weapons, and taxpayer dollars should go toward assisting Saudi Arabia with its brutal war on civilians in Yemen,” he added.

Several senators stood on the Senate floor after the vote and expressed opposition to the war in Yemen, with Sanders highlighting the devastating famine, cholera outbreak, and staggering malnutrition that is physically stunting many Yemeni children.

“The fact of the matter is the United States, with very little media attention, has been Saudi Arabia’s partner in this horrific war. We have been providing the bombs the Saudi coalition is using, refueling their planes before they drop those bombs, and assisting with intelligence. In too many cases, our weapons are being used to kill civilians,” Sanders stated.

“This war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional. Article 1 of the Constitution clearly states that it is Congress, not the President, that has the power to send our men and women into war.”

“[The truth is] Democratic and Republican presidents are responsible, and Democratic and Republican Congresses are responsible. That is, for many years, Congress has not exercised its constitutional responsibility over whether or not our young men and women go off to war.”

“We have become far too comfortable with the United States engaging in military interventions all over the world,” Sanders concluded. “We have now been in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the longest war in American history. Our troops are now in Syria under what I believe are questionable authorities. The time is long overdue for Congress to reassert its constitutional role in determining when and where our country goes to war.”

With the parliamentary maneuver by Ryan and the GOP, it is unlikely that Congress will be passing a resolution that pressures President Donald Trump’s administration or sends a message to Saudi Arabia that the war in Yemen must come to an end.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."