Border, Iran at issue as House takes up defense policy bill

The heated battle over how to deal with a surge of illegal immigration along the southern border headlines part of debate in the House on a major defense bill, as Democrats would block the White House from funneling money approved as part of the military budget to a border wall, while members of both parties will also get the chance to vote to block the use of military force against Iran.

Stung by the President's use of an emergency law to divert construction money from military projects to work on a border wall, Democrats included provisions in the yearly defense bill to stop such moves in 2020 along the border with Mexico.

"National defense funds may not be obligated, expended, or otherwise used to design or carry out a project to construct, replace, or modify a wall, fence, or other physical barrier along the international border between the United States and Mexico," the bill states in Section 1046.

That was doubly reinforced in Section 2801 of the bill, specifically to fence off the use of military base construction money for a border wall, or other border barriers.

A number of Republican lawmakers filed amendments to strike both of those sections in the bill which would stop the President from moving money into a border wall; Democrats did not allow the GOP plans to be voted on during debate on the House floor.

"You're setting us up to fail," complained Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), as he criticized Democrats for allowing votes on a small number of Republican amendments to the defense bill.

"Today won't be the last word on this issue," said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA).

Democrats brushed off the complaints, saying 142 Republican amendments were accepted to the defense bill in the House Armed Services Committee.

"There's lots and lots of stuff in here that everybody should support," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

The border wall provisions in the defense bill were just part of the reason the White House issued a veto threat against the $733 billion measure on Tuesday, arguing the bill 'would impede efforts to insure border security.'

The White House also argues the bill would not authorize as much spending as is needed for the Pentagon, falling short of Mr. Trump's goal of a $750 billion military budget for 2020.

439 amendments were made in order to the defense bill under a plan approved late Tuesday by the House Rules Committee, including everything from requiring the military to buy domestically produced stainless steel flatware and dinner ware, to expanded infertility treatment for service members, to a study to better screen out potential soldiers who have ties to white nationalist organizations.

Maybe the biggest amendment vote will come on a bipartisan plan to block any military action against Iran, unless it has been previously authorized by the Congress.

"We cannot let Trump attack Iran and drag us into an ill-conceived, unplanned and endless war with Iran," said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who joined with members of both parties to force a vote on the issue in the House.

Senators voted down a similar plan in late June.

Bubbling underneath the start of work on the bill was discontent in Democratic Party ranks, which could possibly sink the entire defense bill, as some more progressive Democrats have threatened to vote against the plan, not pleased with the $733 billion price tag, as well as other policy items.

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