House GOP blocks lawmakers from forcing Yemen war votes for rest of year
House Republicans have officially blocked lawmakers from forcing a vote on all resolutions for the remainder of the year that attempt to use the War Powers Act to cut off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
The move came during a vote on a rule for floor debate of the farm bill. The rule passed on a largely party-line 206-203 vote.
Five Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the rule, while 18 Republicans voted against the rule.
Tucked into the bottom of the rule is provision that says privilege “shall not apply during the remainder of the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress to a concurrent resolution introduced pursuant to … the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544) with respect to Yemen.”
Privilege is what allows lawmakers to force votes, meaning the rule effectively dooms any chances of the House voting on the issue at all this year.
The House move comes as the Senate is poised to approve a resolution that uses the War Powers Act to force the withdrawal any U.S. troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days, unless they are fighting al Qaeda.
The Senate resolution picked up considerable momentum as lawmakers searched for a way to respond to Saudi Arabia’s killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi and rebuke President Trump’s handling of the issue.
Supporters and opponents of the Senate resolution alike are predicting it has the 51 votes needed to pass when it comes for a vote later Wednesday.
House leaders also received a CIA briefing on the Khashoggi killing earlier Wednesday. The full House is expected to receive a broader briefing on Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
“We’re going to have a classified briefing tomorrow that will further allow debate based upon the facts of the case,” House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said on the floor Wednesday. “We will be here all next week and if the facts of the case warrant, we will address the issue then.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) recently reintroduced his war powers resolution for Yemen with the hope that Senate passage with Republican support could pressure House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to allow a vote. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was helping gather Republican support.
On Wednesday, Khanna called the move to strip privilege from all Yemen war powers resolutions “unprecedented.”
“Speaker [Paul] Ryan [(R-Wis.)] is preventing Congress from conducting our constitutional duty and once again, breaking the rules of the House,” he said in a statement.
Massie added on the House floor that the move “violates both the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973.”
“Just when you thought Congress couldn’t get any swampier,” he said, “we continue to exceed even the lowest expectation.”
–Updated at 2:35 p.m.