Minnesota congressman Collin Peterson is taking criticism from Democrats after siding with Republicans to prevent a vote ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen.
Peterson, who was re-elected to the Minnesota 7th District last month, was one of five Democrats who voted with the majority of GOP representatives in favor of a resolution that prevents any kind of vote being taken on Yemen in the House before the end of 2018.
What's more, his fellow Minnesota Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison – soon to be Minnesota's governor and attorney general, respectively – were among seven Democrats who were absent for the vote.
The Yemen measure was buried in a procedural bill setting out the rules for debating and passing the $867 billion Farm Bill, with House Speaker Paul Ryan adding it Tuesday night ahead of a Wednesday vote, prompting outcry from both sides of the aisle.
The procedural bill passed 206-203 on Wednesday, with 18 Republicans voting against it because of the Yemeni provision. This made Peterson's vote and the Ellison/Walz absences crucial.
Peterson in particular has gained attention for his vote after telling Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein that he "doesn't know a damn thing" about the war in Yemen, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis and claimed tens of thousands of lives – many of them children – and put 14 million people at risk of starvation.
Peterson suggested he voted in favor so as not to jeopardize the passage of the wider Farm Bill, despite Stein noting that had the procedural Farm Bill vote been rejected, the Yemen provision could have been removed and then another vote been held.
Peterson, however, criticized his Democratic Party because it "gets off on tangents."
The $867 billion Farm Bill was passed later on Wednesday by a vote of 367-49.
Newsweek reports the U.S. Senate is preparing to approve its own resolution that uses the War Powers Act to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops in or near Yemen within 30 days, unless they're fighting Al Qaeda.
The House will now be prevented from passing a similar measure at least until next month, when the Democrats take control.
Many in Congress have been looking to reduce the government's support of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, which has been linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Ryan's move was heavily criticized, with Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie accusing him of "shirking responsibility."
But a Ryan spokesperson told the Washington Examiner the reason he inserted the measure preventing a vote on Yemen into a Farm Bill is because he argues the "U.S. is no longer providing the very support that this bill seeks to cut off, thus making it unnecessary."
BMTN has reached out to the offices of Reps. Walz and Ellison to ask for an explanation for their absences.