US House votes to limit Trump’s ability to strike Iran
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US House votes to limit Trump’s ability to strike Iran

Over two dozen Republicans join bipartisan proposal requiring president to get authorization from Congress before taking military action; White House vows to veto measure

US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One as he departs July 12, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One as he departs July 12, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Friday to put a liberalized stamp on Pentagon policy, including a bipartisan proposal to limit US 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 Tehran’s downing of a US 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.

US Marines training on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge, May 18, 2019, deployed in the Gulf of Arabia “to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region.” (MCS Jason Waite/US Navy)

“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 to $725 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 US-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.

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Mediterranean Sea while the ship travels to the Persian gulf, April 25, 2019. (US Navy/Matt Herbst)

The measure comes as the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of the US military drone.

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Iran has said its breaches of the nuclear pact can be reversed if the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union — can come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the American sanctions.

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