Democrats Secure GOP Defection & Win Vote 215-190 To Stop Trump’s Soldiers

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On Monday, the Democrat-led U.S. House approved an amendment to the Insurrection Act of 1807 that would constrain President Donald Trump’s power to deploy active-duty troops on U.S. soil. Amidst sometimes intense nationwide protests against police brutality that have recently swept across the nation, Trump has repeatedly threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy troops into the streets of U.S. cities, which the archaic law gives him the power to do. The update to the legislation would demand that any president consult with Congress before deploying troops against Americans, since, as one of the measure’s supporters noted, that’s one of the basic steps that is ordinarily demanded when troops are deployed overseas.

The vote was 215-190, with one Republican — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) — among the 215 House members in favor of the amendment. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who sponsored the legislation, which was passed as an add-on to the National Defense Authorization Act for the upcoming fiscal year, commented:

‘Today, if the president of the United States chooses to use military force abroad the president would have to consult with Congress. Yet that same consultation is not required for use of military force on American soil.’

Besides the demand for consultation with Congress before the usage of the Insurrection Act, the new legislation would also require the presidential administration to certify to Congress that local authorities are either unwilling or unable to suppress the violence underlying the attempt at deploying military forces to quell domestic unrest. The legislation, if adopted, would also bar troops from conducting arrests unless they were “otherwise expressly authorized by law.” The last time that the Insurrection Act was invoked was amidst the riots in response to the police beating of Rodney King in the early 1990s. Then-President George H.W. Bush invoked the legislation and deployed troops at the explicit request of the then-governor of California.

In the current situation, crucially, not only has Trump proven disturbingly gung-ho about the prospect of using violent force against American citizens, but his assessments of the actual situation have also been delusional and frequently entirely disconnected from reality. There’s no siege of major American cities by some kind of nefarious, conspiring force. There’s just not. The overwhelming majority of protesters who’ve turned out across the country recently have been peaceful. That hasn’t stopped Trump from clamoring for violence anyway.

Federal authorities have recently deployed personnel to Portland, Oregon, to confront protesters, although the deployments are explicitly against the wishes of local authorities, and the forces that have been dispatched have been instigating even more violence. Figures like acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf have pointed to incidents of graffiti in the city as supposed justification for the deployments, but to call graffiti a thin excuse for paramilitary violence against peaceful protesters would be an understatement.

One Republican suggested that the Insurrection Act amendment was based on hypotheticals. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) said:

‘This is dangerous. We’re having a knee-jerk reaction to what we think the president might do. Not what he did, but what we think he might do.’

Actually, the president has already clearly proven his penchant for violence against peaceful protesters.