The fear is that Republicans would use a procedural vote — known as a motion to recommit — to split Democrats and force certain changes to the bill, as the GOP has successfully done on some of the most contentious measures of 2019.
“Majority Leader [Steny] Hoyer has done an excellent job in figuring out a procedure for how we can get a vote on the floor on these bills without an MTR that is nongermane and could divide the caucus,” Khanna said in an interview.
Last February, the GOP temporarily tanked bipartisan legislation to rein in Trump’s war-making powers in Yemen — a historic vote that marked the first time since the passage of the 1973 War Powers Act that both chambers agreed to halt a military effort.
At the time, Republicans had seized on tensions within the Democratic Caucus over certain remarks perceived as anti-Semitic by some of their own members. GOP lawmakers eventually secured enough Democratic votes to amend the legislation and add language condemning anti-Semitism, which held up the measure.
Now, though, Democratic leaders have a plan to prevent any kind of GOP “gotcha” votes. The Lee and Khanna measures will be offered as separate amendments to a noncontroversial House bill that has already passed the Senate.
Under House rules, Republicans cannot offer motions to recommit on any House measures that have been passed by the Senate — so the GOP will essentially be denied an opportunity to tweak the package of Iran bills.
Republicans, who point out that they never tried to weaken what is one of the few weapons possessed by the House minority, are already panning the move.
“It’s embarrassing the desperate lengths House Democrats have to go to avoid a Republican motion to recommit,” said a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). “The only thing they’re accomplishing is revealing how deeply fractured and weak their conference is, especially when it comes to defeating terrorism and supporting our Israeli allies.”
Democrats have repeatedly been stymied by the GOP tactics, though Hoyer and the whip team have gotten creative to prevent more procedural snafus — especially on issues that have the potential to be explosive.
A foreign policy bill like Khanna’s, for example, could be another chance to add language on Israel, which has split the Democratic Caucus this year.
The House GOP has developed a track record of success with the motions by crafting language that is tough for vulnerable Democrats to oppose. It became such a point of contention in the Democratic Caucus last year that leadership even contemplated changing the rules at one point.
The Iran bills heading to the floor next week represent a historic win for progressives like Khanna and Lee, who have long tried to rein in presidential war powers. Trump’s escalation in Iran has effectively spurred the strongest challenge to any White House’s war authorities since the fight over Iraq funding in 2006.
Lee’s measure would repeal the 2002 authorization of the use of military force, which has justified Pentagon strikes in countries like Yemen, Somalia and now Iran. And Khanna’s bill would prohibit funding for any military offensive against Iran without congressional approval.
While Democrats are expecting the measures to pass the House, the Senate is not required to take up the package because it is not “privileged.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who co-sponsors a similar measure in the Senate — is working to get other Republicans on board.
But some Republicans who have supported similar war powers language in the past are wary of being seen as directly rebuking Trump for his strategy in the Middle East.
“This is not intended as a rebuke of the president,” Khanna said. It is “intended to stop wars.”