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California in Congress

Rep. Barbara Lee won't get her war vote after all

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

House Republicans have stripped from a Defense Department spending bill Rep. Barbara Lee's amendment to reconsider the authority the president has to wage war.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee unexpectedly opened the door last month to ending the authorization approved by Congress in 2001 when Lee's amendment was added to a Defense Department measure after 16 years of attempts. Congress would have had 240 days to debate a new authorization. At the end of that time, the 2001 authorization would have been repealed.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) was uncomfortable with the amendment, with his spokeswoman AshLee Strong telling the Hill newspaper last week after Lee and Ryan met to discuss it that, "There is a way to discuss this debate, but this [amendment], which endangers our national security, is not it."

The version of the Defense Department bill approved by the House Rules Committee overnight removes Lee's amendment and replaces it with an amendment from Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) that gives the White House 30 days to tell Congress its strategy for defeating Al Qaeda and Islamic State, and how the administration believes the current Authorization for the Use of Military Force applies.

The Rules Committee decides what debate on a bill will look like on the House floor, including what amendments can be considered.

Lee was was livid when learning the news, and blamed Ryan.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Republican leadership deploy every manner of undemocratic, underhanded tactics in Congress. But stripping my bipartisan amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF – in the dead of night, without a vote – may be a new low from Speaker Ryan," Lee said in a statement.

Lee, an Oakland Democrat, was the only member of Congress to object in September 2001 to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a resolution in response to the terrorist attacks that paved the way for the war in Afghanistan.

The resolution has since been used by President George W. Bush, President Obama and now President Trump to justify more than 35 military actions in nearly 20 countries around the world without going back to Congress for new permission to send troops into harm's way.

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