House tees up defense policy bill with new amendments

By Tony Bertuca  
July 10, 2019 at 11:39 AM

The House Rules Committee voted 8-4 last night to allow debate and floor votes on 439 new amendments to the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill.

One amendment, offered by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), would cut $17 billion from the Defense Department's Overseas Contingency Operations account.

There will also be a vote on a bipartisan amendment offered by Khanna and Rep. Mat Gaetz (R-FL) that would block any U.S. military action against Iran unless approved by Congress.

Additionally, lawmakers will debate Khanna's amendment to halt U.S. support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Lawmakers will also vote on an amendment from Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) to remove a measure in the bill that prohibits funding to deploy low-yield nuclear warheads on U.S. submarines.

Additionally, there will be debate on an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to repeal the 2002 authorization for the U.S. war in Iraq.

The bill, which already contained provisions to block DOD funds from building barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, includes several proposed amendments on immigration, including prohibitions on using DOD facilities to house unaccompanied migrant children, as well as blocking deployments of U.S. troops to the southern border intended to enforce immigration law.

GOP lawmakers were unsuccessful in their efforts to remove provisions blocking DOD funds from being used to construct border barriers.

Republicans generally oppose the bill, with House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) saying the legislation has drifted from its tradition of "bipartisan consensus."

"Unfortunately, partisan provisions in this bill have robbed it of bipartisan support," he said in a statement. "Through this bill, House Democrats are forcing our troops to pay the price for their political disputes with the president. . . . This week, House Republicans will work to restore critical programs, and with them, the bipartisan support this critical legislation has traditionally enjoyed."

Though GOP staffers said Republicans are "keeping an open mind" on whether to vote for the bill, Democratic staffers said they expect the legislation to get little GOP support, if any.

The White House has also threatened a presidential veto.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) took issue with Thornberry's assertion that the bill is a partisan product, noting that the bill, at the committee level, including 150 GOP amendments and 190 amendments from Democrats.

"If you disagree with the policy that's fine and we'll have those discussions in just a minute but to claim that this was a partisan product is just wrong," he told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.