U.S. Crackdown on Saudis Over Yemen War Imperiled by House Move

(Bloomberg) -- The farm bill and U.S. policy on Saudi Arabia usually don’t have anything to do with each other. Today they do.

A rule that spells out how the House will debate and consider the farm bill, adopted by a Republican-controlled House panel yesterday, contains an unrelated provision that would block lawmakers from forcing the chamber to vote on certain Yemen legislation until a new Congress takes over in January. The full House will vote on the rule later today.

The provision would complicate efforts to push back on the U.S.’s role in Yemen and relationship with Saudi Arabia amid bipartisan anger over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It would remove one path lawmakers can use to force a vote on the issue, putting the decision in the lap of House Republican leaders who’ve so far shown little appetite to take it up before the end of the year.

"When Democrats assume the majority in the coming weeks, they will have the opportunity to hold hearings, markups and take votes on this matter," Laura Peavey, spokeswoman for Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said. "Forcing this type of vote on members in the remainder of this Congress is purely political and simply unnecessary."

Most likely, all of that would push any congressional action on Yemen and the Saudis into 2019, buying more time for President Donald Trump and his allies who’ve resisted crackdowns on the Saudis over Khashoggi and the state of the war in Yemen. While the U.S. has sanctioned some individuals involved Khashoggi’s murder, Trump has opposed stiffer actions against Saudi Arabia arguing it’s too vital a U.S. ally in the Mideast.

Representative Jim McGovern, the top Democrat on House Rules Committee, tried to strike the Yemen part from the rule yesterday without success. Democrats will likely seek to remove the language again today.

It’s unclear whether the provision will complicate House passage of the Senate-passed farm bill itself, which otherwise appears on track to sail through later on Wednesday. The bill is H.R. 2.

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