There’s a contentious provision buried in the farm bill rule that the House just passed. No, it has nothing to do with U.S. farms.
The House Rules Committee released the terms of the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” more commonly known as “the farm bill,” late Tuesday night. Embedded in all that legislative jargon was a provision to end debate on a (completely unrelated) resolution about U.S.’s military involvement in Yemen for this Congress.
The background: Millions of Yemeni civilians have been going with little or no food because of the war. The violence has forced large numbers of farmers to abandon their crops. The United Nations has said as many as 14 million people in Yemen could be at risk in the coming months as the famine continues to spread.
We’ll say it one more time for the people in the back: The GOP is using a farm and nutrition bill to block the U.S. from pulling support from a war that’s directly causing famine.
Since October, the American public (and lawmakers) have increasingly denounced the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and its subsequent involvement in Yemen, due in part to Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Turkish Saudi consulate.
The procedural farm bill rule, which blocks any vote on U.S. involvement in Yemen for the rest of this Congress, was ultimately adopted by the narrow margin of 206-203. This means that Republicans are fundamentally halting House debate on the U.S.’s support of Saudi Arabia.
The move sparked backlash from a number of lawmakers.
“Tucked inside this rule is language that turns off fast-track procedures for all Yemen resolutions through the end of this Congress,” explained Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). “That’s right—the Republican leadership has declared that the worst humanitarian conflict in the world, where the U.N. has just announced famine is taking place due to the war, is not worth the time and attention of the people’s House.”
House Dems who voted with the GOP majority to continue the war in Yemen are Jim Costa, Al Lawson, Collin Peterson, Dutch Rupperberger and David Scott. Meanwhile, 17 Republicans crossed over to resist the rule once the Yemen provision was added.
“To avoid a debate on whether the US should be involved in a war in Yemen, today our leadership will trick members into suspending the provisions of the War Powers Act,” tweeted Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) Wednesday morning. “Sad!”
By stripping privilege from resolutions that limit U.S. involvement in Yemen, the Farm Bill’s resolution violates the Constitution & the War Powers Act of 1973, disturbing conservative and liberal lawmakers alike.
The exact language of the resolution attached to the farm bill reads that the Congressional part of the War Powers Resolution “shall not apply during the remainder of the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress to a concurrent resolution introduced … with respect to Yemen.”
“14 million people are on the brink of famine in Yemen. 85K children have already died from cholera and starvation,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) urged via Twitter. “Our Yemen War Powers Resolution can’t wait until 2019. We must pass it now to save lives.”
Last week, the Senate voted 63-37 to advance a measure that would end U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict. The Senate is also expected to pass a resolution that uses the War Powers Act to force U.S. troops in or “affecting” Yemen to withdraw within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.