Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will use a parliamentary loophole to deny a vote on a landmark war powers resolution directing U.S. forces to end support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, effectively killing the bill.
The resolution was passed in the House on February 13, but an unrelated amendment condemning anti-Semitism that was attached to the bill by Republicans has provided McConnell a justification for preventing a vote in the Senate.
“McConnell used the new language on combating anti-Semitism to strip the resolution of privilege and deny it a vote on the floor, as he does with anything Trump doesn’t like,” Matt Duss, foreign policy advisor to the resolution’s sponsor in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, explained via Twitter Monday.
War powers resolutions are by nature “privileged,” meaning they are entitled a “straight” up or down vote in a timely manner.
But last week, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that because the amendment condemning anti-Semitism is not “germane” to the resolution, it no longer retains its privileged status.
“The GOP successfully used Congress’ unanimous commitment to combating anti-Semitism to prolong U.S. support for the Yemen war, the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” Duss said.
The Country of Living Ghosts
Proponents of the resolution say the U.S. is complicit in helping to perpetuate what the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
At least 85,000 children have died of extreme starvation as a result of the war and experts warn that millions more are at risk of suffering the same fate if fighting continues.
The U.S. has supplied billions of dollars in high-tech weaponry that Saudi Arabia has used in the conflict and U.S. personnel have worked closely with the Saudis to assist in training, intelligence sharing, and targeting.
1. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Wardah Fadel 2.1 kg 4 months. Wardah's parents, resident in Hodeidah, came to Sanaa to hospitalize her. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
2. Yemen, midway Sana'a to Hodeidah, 13 November 2018. WFP Executive Director David Beasley visiting Yemen. Here he is having a tea in the mountains midway Sana'a to Hodeidah. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
3. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
4. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Al Sabeen maternal hospital. Hesham Ali Abdullah (left) and his son Ali Yakya Ali (5) who is affected by severe acute malnutrition edematous which causes an excessive amount of water fluid in the tissues. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
5. Yemen, Sana'a, 11 November 2018. Yemeni children waiting for screening at the Al Sabeen maternal hospital where WFP provides plumpy sup and supercereal to treat moderate acute malnutrition. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
6. Yemen, Sana'a, 10 November 2018. A kid in old city Sanaa. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini
The coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen has been condemned by the U.N. for indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, resulting in possible war crimes. In addition to facing mass-starvation, the Yemeni people have been subject to a massive cholera outbreak resulting from the coalition bombing of water treatment facilities.
“The violence will have to stop. Unless it does, this country will become a country of living ghosts,” Abeer Etefa, the Senior Spokeswoman for the United Nations World Food Program, told The Globe Post.
The amendment condemning anti-Semitism was introduced by Republican David Kustoff and also included language condemning the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Apparently unaware the amendment would ultimately be used to kill the resolution, House Democrats unanimously voted for its inclusion. Kustoff and most other House Republicans ultimately voted against the final resolution anyway, despite the amendment’s inclusion.
In a mostly symbolic rebuke of President Donald Trump’s posture towards Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the Senate passed the same resolution with bipartisan support in December shortly before the end of 115th Congressional session.
The vote was a historic expression of Congress’ Constitutional powers, marking the first time the Senate ever passed a war powers resolution seeking to end U.S. military participation in an unauthorized war.
But because the House did not pass the resolution before the end of the session, December’s vote was rendered moot.
Former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also used similar parliamentary maneuvers to deny the resolution a vote in the House during the previous session.
Ryan attached clauses de-privileging it to unrelated, popular bills including one about wolf hunting and one about agriculture.
“They said if you wanted to hunt wolves – if you wanted to be for the hunting of wolves – then vote yes. And at the same time, you’re going to de-privilege this resolution,” the bill’s House sponsor Ro Khanna told reporters following the move.
“This is why people hate Congress … We’ve never seen those kinds of shenanigans with a war powers resolution,” he added in an interview with Democracy Now.
More on the Subject
Humanitarian organizations continue to plead with the warring powers to cease hostilities and are warning that each passing day brings more death and despair for the Yemeni people.
“The deterioration of the wellbeing of the people – you can witness it day to day,” Etefa said. “The Yemeni people are dignified, resilient, patient, but I think they are losing hope. They kind of look like they’ve given up on everything. They’ve given up on life. It’s very difficult to describe.”