US House Democrats lead push to restrict Trump on Iran strikes

House passes defence bill with amendments addressing Iran, Saudi arms sales and Yemen. Trump has threatened a veto.

    US President Donald Trump at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]
    US President Donald Trump at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

    The United States House of Representatives approved a $733bn defence policy bill on Friday, defying Donald Trump's veto threat by including provisions that would put some limits on the US president's authority when it comes to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    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 to get authorisation from Congress to conduct military attacks against Iran, along with a repeal of a 2002 law authorising 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 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.

    "On the floor, the bill has taken a radical left turn," said Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. 

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    "There's good and bad in this bill ... but it's moving in a direction that does make America less safe," Thornberry said. 

    House Democrats also approved amendments to block Trump's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and end US support for the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen. Trump vetoed a separate measure on Yemen earlier this year. 

    Trump promises veto 

    The Trump administration has promised to veto the House measure. The Senate passed its own bill last month. Members of Congress 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 $17bn, is still too rich for some progressives. They also baulk 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 $88m to build a new prison at the base. It removes a ban against transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the US that was enacted when Democrats controlled Congress in the early years of the Obama administration. The bill would also reverse Trump's ban on most transgender individuals serving in the military.

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

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    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 Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "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 percent pay rise for military service members and authorisation 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies