WASHINGTON — The House on Friday voted for a measure that would block President Donald Trump from initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval.
Lawmakers adopted the amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in a 251-170 vote with more than two dozen Republicans in support. The measure was wrapped into the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that the House passed Friday afternoon.
The House and the Senate will still have to reconcile their separate versions of the defense bill, and are likely to exclude the Iran amendment from the final package. Last month, a similar measure that would have restricted the president’s ability to unilaterally launch military action on Iran failed in the Senate. The legislation received 50 votes in favor and 40 against, falling short of the 60-vote hurdle to advance to a final vote.
The amendment’s adoption by the House follows Trump’s statement in June that the United States had been “cocked and loaded” to strike Iranian targets in retaliation for Iran shooting down an unmanned drone.
During a White House meeting a day before Trump almost greenlighted the military strike, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told the president that he would need Congress to approve any sort of military action against Iran, she later told reporters. Trump himself said that he had backed down because the Pentagon said that the loss of life would be a disproportionate response to the shooting down of the drone.
Trump said at the time, amid heightening tensions with Iran, that he had executive power to strike Iran unilaterally without congressional approval. Former President Barack Obama relied on an authorization for the use of military force from 2001 in justifying his unilateral power to launch strikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.
On Friday, the House also repealed the AUMF that Congress passed in 2002 and adopted another amendment that expressed that the 2001 AUMF has served as a “blank check for any president to wage war at any time and any place.” The measure said that any new AUMF must include a sunset clause with a clear set of “objectives, targets, and geographic scope, and reporting requirements.”
Seth Moulton ends presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., ended his 2020 presidential campaign on Friday, and announced his intention to seek a fourth House term.
“I will continue to fight for a new generation of leadership in our party and our country,” the Iraq War veteran, who failed to gain traction in a crowded presidential primary field, said in remarks to a Democratic National Committee meeting in San Francisco. “And most of all, I will be campaigning my a– off for whoever wins our nomination in 2020.”
Moulton is the third candidate to drop out of the race in the past eight days, following the exits of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who will seek a third term, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has decided to run for the Senate. Party insiders expect the field to be culled even further in the coming weeks as poor polling and barren campaign treasuries force more candidates to assess their reasons for continuing to run.
For Moulton, the campaign had presented an opportunity to raise his profile a little bit, create a larger network of donors and — his allies clearly hope — put himself in position to possibly join the administration if a Democrat wins the presidency.
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A memo his campaign team circulated to reporters ahead of the announcement focused on his national security and foreign policy credentials, as well as his appetite for taking on President Donald Trump in those areas. Moulton’s speech to fellow Democrats on Friday hit on those themes, too.
“We have been challenging Donald Trump where he’s weakest — as commander-in-chief — and showing this country that Democrats are the party of making America strong overseas and safe here at home,” Moulton said of his campaign.
He also highlighted his efforts to bring attention to the mental health needs of veterans, which grew out of his battles with post-traumatic stress.
“For the first time in my life, I talked publicly about dealing with post-traumatic stress from my four combat tours in Iraq,” he said. “And our team put forward a plan that will end the stigma around mental health — the same stigma that kept me silent for so long, and that kept every presidential candidate before me from talking about mental health struggles themselves.”
Gay workers not covered by civil rights law, Trump admin tells Supreme Court
The Trump administration Friday filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that gay workers are not protected by federal civil rights law. The filing came exactly one week after the administration argued the same for transgender workers.
The brief was submitted in combined cases concerning Gerald Bostock, a gay man fired from his job as a child welfare services worker by Clayton County, Georgia, and the late Donald Zarda, a gay man fired from his job as a skydiving instructor by New York company Altitude Express. The Bostock and Zarda cases are two of three cases concerning LGBTQ workers’ rights that the Supreme Court is expected to hear this fall.
This latest brief, submitted by Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and other Department of Justice attorneys, argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, “does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation.”
“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the brief states. “An employer thus discriminates ‘because of * * * sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
The issue of whether “sex” discrimination in Title VII includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has caused a split in lower courts over the past several years, with some backing gay workers and others the employers who have fired them.
In addition to the Zarda and Bostock cases, the Supreme Court is set to hear R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. That case concerns Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was beginning her gender transition. The Trump administration filed an amicus brief in the Stephens case Aug. 16, siding with the employer.
Prior to its amicus briefs in the Bostock, Zarda and Stephens cases, the Trump administration had already made its position clear on the scope of sex discrimination in Title VII. In July 2017, the Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Zarda case opposing the extension of Title VII discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. And in October 2018 — prior to the Supreme Court decision to hear the Stephens case — the Justice Department filed a brief with the high court siding with the funeral home. In the Stephens case, the federal government is pitted against itself, since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a defendant in the case.
The Supreme Court will hear the cases next term, which begins in October.
Julie Moreau contributed.
After El Paso shooting, Latino lawmakers slam Texas governor for ‘dangerous’ tweets about immigrants
AUSTIN, Texas — In the wake of the El Paso domestic terror attack, lawmakers and Democrats, many of them Latino, are slamming language used by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a tweet and a fundraising letter as anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant.
On Friday, members of the state’s El Paso legislative delegation and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus condemned Abbott’s language on a Twitter thread in which Abbott said the state has been forced to pay for the education of “illegal immigrants.”
“Our community is trying to heal from racially driven violence. This hurts. It is dangerous,” the El Paso state lawmakers tweeted individually from their accounts.
The caucus went further, saying the “attack on a child’s right to an education is immoral and infuriating, regardless of citizenship status”, and said Abbot has “demonized” the immigrant community “since day one” and “fueled the widespread hate towards our Latino family.”
The backlash over Abbott’s tweet comes the day after the governor held a roundtable on the El Paso attack that left 22 people dead. Abbott said helping El Paso heal, particularly its children, is a priority. It also comes amid outrage over a fundraising letter dated the day before the Aug. 3 attack. In it, Abbott decries illegal immigration and calls on supporters to “DEFEND Texas.”
In the United States, children cannot be turned away from schools based on their immigration status after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which Abbott mentions in his tweet. The case originated in Tyler, Texas.
El Paso sits on the Texas border and some of its students come legally from its adjoining city Juarez, Mexico. Not all are undocumented.
Abbott’s office did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. In public comments after Thursday’s roundtable, Abbott struck a different tone. He said the roundtable in Austin and another planned Aug. 29 in El Paso are intended to find ways for “rooting out hateful ideologies.”
“We know you feel you are attacked as human beings. We want you to know that we as Texans come shoulder to shoulder and side by side with you, as one family working together,” he said.
James Dickey, Republican Party of Texas chairman, said it’s an “absurd stretch to argue that language like ‘defend Texas’ can be construed by any sane person to mean ‘go murder people.'”
Political mailing stirs controversy
Abbott’s political mailer, which was provided to NBC News by the Texas Democratic Party, told supporters that “if we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.”
After citing immigration apprehension statistics and criticizing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Abbott warned of a plan by liberals to “transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration.”
Police said the gunman who opened fire on an El Paso Walmart told them his target was “Mexicans,” and that he posted an anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant screed that stated the attack was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The screed also states Democrats are trying to “enact a political coup” by opening borders and legalizing millions of new voters to transform Texas from a Republican-controlled to a Democratic-controlled state.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, whose district is El Paso, criticized Abbott for his letter in a tweet Thursday.
“If Greg Abbott ever wonders why there is so much hate and anger toward Mexicans and immigrants, he should take a long look at his rhetoric, policies and now his mailer,” she said.
Texas Democrats blasted the governor’s letter Thursday in a news release that was issued while Abbott was holding the roundtable. They said the language in Abbott’s letter is the sort that fueled the hatred of the suspected shooter.
“It’s long past time for Republicans to eradicate white supremacist language from their discourse — people are dying,” Democrats said in the statement.
Rep. Rafael Anchía, chairman of the MALC, listed actions Abbott has taken as governor and the state’s attorney general regarding immigrants, including supporting Arizona laws that give law enforcement officers more power to investigate individuals’ citizenship status.
Anchía called on the governor to end the rhetoric, his mailers and “anti-immigrant policies.”
“All Texans, including the Latino community, should feel safe in their home. Governor Abbott is instead doing the exact opposite by promoting fear,” Anchía said in a statement.
Members of El Paso’s delegation said they raised the issue of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric with the governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and other participants in the Austin roundtable.
Texas Rep. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, said after the meeting there was consensus that the El Paso attack was an atrocity that happened to Latinos, that it was racially based and that “a racist white nationalist” did the attack.
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, the House Speaker pro tem, said Thursday there was a “very poignant” moment during the discussions when a participant said that “language matters and it matters more when it’s (from) leaders in our state.”
“I think that point was made very clearly,” he said.
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