House opposes Trump’s Iran war threat, repeals Bush ‘war on terror’ authorization
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., places flowers among the 5,000 placed on the West Front of the Capitol that activists said memorialize the 5,000 children killed by Saudi bombings in Yemen as of March 19, 2018. Khanna is also leading the charge to block Trump's planned war against Iran. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

WASHINGTON—By mostly party-line tallies, the Democratic-run U.S. House opposed President Donald Trump’s presumed march towards war against Iran. Lawmakers also voted to repeal two prior war-making measures, approved in 2001 and 2002, originally OK’d for Republican President George W. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” and his invasion of Iraq.

The House vote against Trump’s Iran saber-rattling was 251-170, with 27 Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, Ind-Mich., joining 223 Democrats in opposing Trump. Seven Democrats and the 163 other Republicans voted to let Trump wage war on Iran.

The House vote sets up a showdown with the GOP-run Senate over Iran. Senators are split 50-40 against Trump’s war scheme, with 46 Democrats, both independents, and two Republicans opposing Trump, 40 Republicans backing him, and nine Republicans and a Democrat absent. But Iran war foes needed 60 votes to halt the conflict.

The Senate has not voted this year on yanking the “Authorizations for Use of Military Force,” originally passed more than a decade ago.

The three House votes on July 11 came as lawmakers slogged through a slew of amendments, from both parties, on the $733 billion defense bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The GOP also tried to add $17 billion to it, bringing it up to what Trump wants, but failed.

A wide range of groups oppose Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran and the outright demand for war from his National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The Communist Party and U.S. Labor Against War strongly oppose the war with Iran. At its June convention, the CPUSA, again, went on record opposing sanctions and U.S. intervention, saying that “The Iranian people, and they alone, can chart a course for their country.” Activists from USLAW, meanwhile, have actively been pushing anti-war resolutions in union meetings around the country.

Daily Kos circulated an anti-war petition with a target of 100,000 signatures and got over 114,000 as of press time. Credo Action launched a second, later, anti-Iran War petition with a goal of 150,000 signatures. It has 107,625 so far.

And Win Without War organized a broad joint letter against war on Iran. Signers include Veterans For Peace, pro-worker VoteVets, Americans For Peace Now, Council For A Livable World, Credo Action, Indivisible, the Federation of American Scientists, J Street and the Jewish Voice for Peace—both of which sharply and openly disagree with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu even more-hawkish stand—Pax Christi, the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers).

“This will be the most important foreign policy vote in the United States Congress,” predicted the anti-Iran war measure’s sponsor, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. “This bipartisan amendment makes it clear the Congress appropriates zero funding for any offensive war in Iran or another war by choice.”

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that when Congress limits funding for a war, Congress’ power, not the executive power, is at its peak,” he added. “When this amendment passes, it will be a clear statement for…both sides of the aisle that this country is tired of endless wars, that we do not want another war in the Middle East.

“The other side, and people will argue, that this may limit our ability to respond to an attack on the United States or our allies. That is a patent lie,” Khanna stated.

“Nothing in this amendment limits the president from doing anything that he needs to do to defend” the U.S. or allies under the War Powers Act, Khanna told his colleagues. “What this will prevent is another trillion-dollar war in the Middle East.” And preventing such a war, he noted, is what Trump promised on the campaign trail three years ago.

Rep. Matt Goetz, R-Fla., whose Florida Panhandle district includes “the highest concentration of active military in the U.S.” said that since those service members would willingly fight, “We should at least have the courage to vote for it or vote against it, every darn one of us.”

Gaetz, an extreme right-winger known for intemperate speeches, added: “If my war-hungry colleagues, some of whom have already suggested we invade Venezuela, North Korea, and probably a few other countries before lunchtime tomorrow, are so certain of their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor.  Let them make the case to Congress and to the American people.”

The other two votes, to repeal the prior authorizations to use force, were re-runs of a vote Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., surprisingly won in the last GOP-run Congress. She was the sole representative in 2001 to oppose the use of force for the war on terror, but won that vote this time 237-183, including 21 Republicans and Amash. She won repeal of the Iraq use of force by a 242-180 margin, including 14 Republicans, plus Amash.

Lee said Trump could use the 2001 congressional OK to fight terrorism to invade Iran, too.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., left, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right. Lee was the lone vote against granting war authorization to President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2002. Ocasio-Cortez tried to block U.S. troops from being sent to the border with Mexico. | Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP

“The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force has been utilized well beyond the scope than Congress intended, and it is far past time for Congress to reassert our constitutional mandated role in war making,” she explained. Lee’s amendment also says “any new authorization should include more-specific provisions, including a sunset clause, and clear and specific expression of objectives, targets, and geographic scope.

“My amendment is not only necessary, but it is timely. Right now, the Trump administration is threatening to use the 2001 AUMF as a legal basis to go to war with Iran. This demonstrates the dangers of leaving this authorization for the use of military force on the books indefinitely.”

While Lee won her colleagues’ OK against Trump’s proposed wars, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of Congress’s declared democratic socialists, failed in her tries to keep the Defense Department out of the mess at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Trump has sent troops there in what he calls a “support role” for the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service. Trump also wants to house some of the jailed migrants at military bases. Ocasio-Cortez told her colleagues some might be sent to Guantanamo Bay. She tried to ban both military roles.

“Militarization of our immigration system, particularly under this administration, must be stopped,” she said. Banning the military from the border “ensures our troops are to be deployed only in the most exigent circumstances to address actual national security threats.” She lost both votes, though Democrats supported her by almost 3-to-1 ratios in each. Republicans voted 189-0 and 187-1 against her moves.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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