House passes defense spending bill limiting Trump’s power to strike Iran

Tensions have been rising fast in the Middle East between the Islamic Republic of Iran and a coalition of Western nations and allies led by the United States, with the threat of a military conflict looming menacingly on the horizon.

If the Democrat-led House of Representatives gets its way, though, President Donald Trump and his administration will have to come before Congress and seek authorization before commencing any sort of military action against the nuclear-ambitious rival nation that is threatening to disrupt international shipping and rain down apocalyptic hell on Israel if given the chance.

Restrictive amendment

The Hill reported that as part of the debate in the House over the annual National Defense Authorization Act defense spending bill — estimated to be around $733 billion this time — an amendment was added that explicitly limits President Trump’s options in dealing with Iran.

The amendment passed by a margin of 251-170, which included 27 Republicans who voted in favor of the limits, a number which surprisingly included outspoken Trump supporter and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who actually co-sponsored the amendment with Democratic California Rep. Ro Khanna.

Explicit in the amendment is a prohibition against any Defense Department funds being used for military action against Iran prior to the administration obtaining a declaration of war or other specific authorization from Congress.

Bipartisan sponsorship

Framed as a method of sending a message to Trump, Khanna told reporters of the NDAA amendment, “It reminds the president that the American people, both Democrats and Republicans, don’t want another war in the Middle East.” “The president was fully aware of this. This is what he said when he campaigned, and he’s probably going to want to say it again when he campaigns again. So I think it’s a reminder to him of where public sentiment is and that he shouldn’t get too influenced by the Washington establishment,” Khanna added.

Gaetz seemed to strike a similar tone while speaking about the amendment on the House floor, and though he didn’t name names, he clearly implied that some of his Republican colleagues and members of the administration seemed almost anxious to commence a conflict with Iran.

“If my war-hungry colleagues — some of whom have already suggested that we invade Venezuela, North Korea and probably a few other countries before lunchtime tomorrow — if they’re so certain in their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor,” Gaetz said.

Limiting viable options

However, a number of Republicans pointed out that the amendment would unfairly tie the hands of the administration and limit the available options for dealing with Iran’s growing threats.

Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the amendment, “You don’t handcuff the president, the commander in chief, you don’t handcuff him in advance of any preparation from dealing with a hostile, state sponsor of terror, and this is just wrong.”

The Senate had already voted on a similar amendment to their version of the NDAA, but it failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for passage. Now, the House and Senate will need to iron their differences in a conference committee to produce a bill that is agreeable to both chambers before being presented to the president for his signature.

Whether a bill that explicitly ties the hands of the administration with regard to Iran would be signed by Trump — who, as Khanna accurately noted, is outspokenly opposed to starting another costly war — certainly is up for debate and remains to be seen.

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