House Democrats lead push to restrict Trump on Iran strikes

The Pentagon -- Photo: Rudi Riet / CC BY-SA 2.0
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WASHINGTON (AP) — UPDATE (2 p.m. July 12):

The Democratic-controlled House voted Friday to put a liberalized stamp on Pentagon policy, including a bipartisan proposal to limit President Donald Trump's authority to make war against Iran.

The measure passed along party lines after a series of votes that pushed it further to the left. Among them was a 251-170 tally to require Trump get authorization from Congress to conduct military strikes against Iran, along with a repeal of a 2002 law authorizing the war in Iraq.

More than two dozen Republicans joined with Democrats on the Iran vote. Trump last month came within minutes of launching a missile strike against Iran in retaliation for Iran's downing of a U.S. drone.

The broader measure passed by a 220-197 vote after several other provisions were tacked on by the Democratic Party's progressive wing, which had been upset by leadership's handling of a border bill last month.

"On the floor, the bill has taken a radical left turn," said Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. "There's good and bad in this bill ... but it's moving in a direction that does make America less safe."

The Trump administration has promised to veto the House measure. The Senate passed its own bill last month. Lawmakers will try to reconcile the competing versions in what could be lengthy negotiations given the differences.

The House measure, which cuts Trump's request for the military by $17 billion, is still too rich for some progressives. They also balk at its continued funding of overseas military operations.

But the measure includes Democratic priorities such as a ban on transferring new detainees to the Guantanamo Bay prison and a denial of Trump's request for $88 million to build a new prison at the base. It removes a ban against transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that was enacted when Democrats controlled Congress in the early years of the Obama administration.

Republicans are less critical about the measure's overall cost than with its contents, especially in military readiness accounts.

It would ban the deployment of a new submarine-launched low-yield nuclear missile and block the administration from shifting military money to a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"It's a bill that I think Democrats should be happy with," said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. "It's not everything they want but we need to pass it to say, 'This is our position,' to move the ball in the direction we want."

Other provisions are broadly popular, including a 3.1% pay raise for military service members and authorization to procure new weapons systems, and expanded health and child benefits for military families.

Another provision would deliver 12 weeks of paid family leave to all federal workers.

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The Democratic-controlled House is moving to put a liberalized stamp on Pentagon policy with a $725 billion measure that pares back the Trump administration's defense request and its authority to make war against Iran.

Democratic leaders hoped to regain their balance as their caucus still smarts from a fight between moderates and progressives over last month's $4.6 billion border bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took heat over her handling of that measure — abandoning a House bill in favor of a bipartisan Senate measure — but the path for the defense measure has gone far more smoothly.

The Senate passed its version of the bill last month.

The House measure, which cuts President Donald Trump's $750 billion request for the military by $17 billion, is still too rich for some progressives, who also balk at its continued funding of overseas military operations. But the measure is stuffed with Democratic priorities such as a ban on transferring any new detainees to the Guantanamo Bay prison and a denial of Trump's request for $88 million to build a new prison at the base. It removes a longstanding ban against transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that was enacted when Democrats controlled Congress in the early years of the Obama administration.

It would ban the deployment of a new submarine-launched low-yield nuclear missile and block the administration from shifting military money to a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"It's a bill that I think Democrats should be happy with," said Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash. "It's not everything they want but we need to pass it to say, 'This is our position,' to move the ball in the direction we want."

Other provisions are broadly popular, including a 3.1% pay raise for military service members and authorization to procure new weapons systems, and expanded health and child benefits for military families.

Another provision, added Wednesday, would deliver 12 weeks of paid family leave to all federal workers.

The annual measure, which has become law for 58 years in a row, has faced a tricky path this year since many liberal Democrats have routinely voted against it in past years, when Republicans drafted the measure. Republicans generally opposed the measure in a committee vote last month and aren't expected to supply many votes in a roll call expected Friday.

An amendment by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., would lift Trump's newly imposed restrictions on service by transgender individuals. Another, by Barbara Lee, D-Calif., would repeal the 2002 congressional authorization of military force used to justify the war in Iraq and subsequent military actions. And a bipartisan amendment by Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., would declare that Trump cannot use a 2001 military authorization measure to launch a war with Iran.

"It's the most progressive NDAA that has ever come before the Congress," said Rep. Davis Cicilline, D-R.I., using the inside-Washington acronym for the measure.