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White House threatens veto of House Iran bills

The White House has threatened to veto a pair of bills the House plans to vote on this week aimed at restricting President Trump’s ability to wage war on Iran.

The veto threats were expected, but provide some additional insight into the administration’s view of the president’s war authorities.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) to block funding for military action against Iran and another bill from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

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In two separate statements, the White House slammed the bills as “misguided,” arguing their “adoption by Congress would undermine the ability of the United States to protect American citizens, whom Iran continues to seek to harm.”

The 2002 AUMF was passed to authorize the Iraq War and has been used by the Trump administration in its legal justification for the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which took place on Iraqi soil.

In a statement of administration policy, the White House argued the 2002 AUMF — which authorizes military action to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” —  has “long been understood to authorize the use of force for, among other purposes, addressing threats emanating from Iraq, including threats such as ISIS—a group whose objectives have included establishing an Islamic state in Iraq and using that state to support terrorism against the United States—as well as threats directed by Iran.”

The statement claimed that Iran and Iranian-backed forces “continue to plan and execute attacks against United States forces in Iraq” and that the 2002 AUMF “provides critical authorities for the United States to defend itself and its partner forces.”

Repealing the authorization, the statement added, “would embolden our enemies.”

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In a separate statement, the White House argued the bill to block funding for military action against Iran “would undermine the administration’s reestablishment of deterrence with Iran, which could perversely make violent conflict with Iran more likely.”

The statement also asserted the bill would “hinder the president’s ability to protect United States diplomats, forces and interests in the region from the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies.”

Neither bill is likely to make it to Trump’s desk to veto. Both are considered dead on arrival in the Senate.

Khanna’s bill and Lee’s bill were both in the version of the annual defense policy bill the House passed in July. But they were taken out from the final version that was signed into law during negotiations with the Senate.

In July, Khanna’s proposal was approved 251-170, with 27 Republicans supporting. Lee’s was approved 242-180, with 14 Republican yeses.

It’s unclear how many Republicans will support the bills this time around. Just three Republicans supported a war powers resolution the House passed earlier this month that was also aimed at reining in Trump’s ability to strike Iran.

Republicans are also upset at the procedural tactics House Democrats are using to bring the Khanna and Lee bills to the floor. The House will vote on the bills as amendments to an unrelated bill — meaning Republicans won’t be able to offer a motion to recommit.

Such motions are the last opportunity to amend a bill and are used by the minority to send a message. The motions usually fail, but Republicans successfully used them several times last year to force centrist Democrats into tough votes and split with the party.

“This week we are going to vote on life and death, war and peace issues with minimal debate, no amendments, and now, as I understand it, not even a motion to recommit, the last vestige of having an alternative view expressed,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday at an unrelated hearing.  “I think that ought to alarm all of us who care about this institution and care about our ability to work together on behalf of the country’s national security.”

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