For her part, Hillary Clinton barely spoke about Yemen during the 2016 campaign. And her aides suggested that Obama—far from supporting Riyadh too much—was not supporting it enough. “We need to be raising the costs to Iran for its destabilizing behavior,” declared her top foreign policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, weeks before Election Day, “and we need to be raising the confidence of our Sunni partners.”
Once Obama left office, however, and the horror in Yemen grew worse, Democrats began to shift. One reason was partisanship: They were less inclined to give a Republican president the benefit of the doubt, especially one so brazenly uninterested in constraining Saudi abuses. In June of last year, all but five Senate Democrats voted against selling the Saudis $500 million worth of precision guided munitions. This March, Senator Bernie Sanders tried something more radical. Invoking the War Powers Act, he proposed ending all U.S. military operations in Yemen except those targeting Al Qaeda. All but ten Democrats voted to pull America out of the war.
Since then, Democratic support for the conflict has collapsed. In September, Hoyer and Engel—who in 2016 wouldn’t even vote against selling cluster bombs to the Saudis—signed onto a House version of Sanders’ bill to pull America out of the war. And on Wednesday, when Sanders’ legislation came up again, every Democrat who had voted against it in March flipped, and voted to discharge the bill from committee. Powered by unanimous Democratic support, the move to discharge the bill passed.