When primaries matter
The fight to end the war in Yemen kicked off again Wednesday in Congress, with War Powers resolutions being re-introduced in both the House and Senate. Last year, the Senate passed its version, led by Bernie Sanders, while the House was blocked from considering its. That one, led by Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal this year, is expected to pass now that Democrats are in control. It could happen as early as February.
I have a story up tonight about how the last push came so close, and much of the credit belongs to an obscure primary challenge in Washington state. The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, became an outspoken champion of the War Powers Resolution last fall, as he fended off a challenge from an anti-war opponent. Now that the election is over, he’s far less enthusiastic about it. That piece is here.
Steny Hoyer, who was a public supporter of the resolution last time, but didn’t whip members to get it across the finish line (even though his title is “whip”) is a co-sponsor of the resolution this time. But his statement accompanying it doesn’t actually call for it to pass -- he only commits to bring it to the floor for a vote -- and that “we should not discount the humanitarian efforts by our Saudi and Emirati allies.”
Congress made its most aggressive use ever of the War Powers Act to end an ongoing conflict at the end of 2018, with the Senate approving -- and the House coming just short -- a resolution that would have required the United States to end its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., re-introduced that resolution, and with the House in Democratic control, it’s expected to pass both chambers this year and head to the president’s desk, setting up a confrontation over U.S. involvement in the war.
Since 2015, the United States has provided logistical support to Saudi Arabia, in addition to tens of billions of dollars in arms sales. The resolution, which seeks to end that, picked up momentum in the wake of the butchering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
But inside the House, a much lower-profile development played a critical but overlooked role: a Democratic primary campaign in Washington state. Significant credit for that resolution’s earlier momentum, say people closely involved in the process, belongs indirectly to Sarah Smith, a long-shot congressional candidate who challenged Democratic Rep. Adam Smith in Washington last year, making it to the general election before losing. Adam Smith at the time was the top-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee and is now the panel’s chair, and Sarah Smith mounted her challenge largely in opposition to what she cast as his hawkish foreign policy approach, with a specific emphasis on Yemen.
Adam Smith, facing the challenge from Sarah Smith, became an outspoken advocate of using the War Powers Resolution in the fall to go up against the Trump administration, including by becoming a leading sponsor of a new War Powers resolution on Yemen. Now that he has won re-election, he remains a supporter of the effort, but his enthusiasm for it has changed noticeably.
“The War Powers resolution thing,” Smith told trade reporters who cover the Pentagon and the weapons industry in a post-election interview in December, before groaning. “There’s no way in the world you can write these stories that’s going to come out in a way that’s positive for me, but I’ll say it anyway: The War Powers resolution is only so useful.”
His shift in rhetoric underscores the impact primary challenges can have on internal House politics, but it also could make him vulnerable to another challenge in two years.
And the new fascist president of Brazil has become obsessed with Intercept Brasil, routinely attacking them on twitter and promoting attacks on them. His latest petty move has been to send a swarm of supporters to down-vote a YouTube video Glenn Greenwald did. He clearly doesn’t understand that YouTube misunderstands that kind of thing as engagement, which only means the video gets seen by more people. (Here’s an english version.)
And we should be quite worried that Elliott Abrams is not just a free man, but is heavily involved in Trump’s Venezuela policy, Jon Schwarz reports.