By Robert A. Vella
Today’s news stories come from the U.S. House of Representatives, international issues, the courts, and a racist state declaration.
House of Representatives votes
The House on Friday passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block the Trump administration from funding military action against Iran without congressional approval.
The vote came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran surpassed the uranium enrichment limitations imposed by the Obama-era nuclear agreement. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact in 2018, but until recently Iran had stayed within the deal’s bounds.
The amendment, passed by a 251-170 vote, was part of Democrats’ efforts to get progressives’ support behind the NDAA after complaints that its $733 billion price tag is too high.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $733-billion defense policy bill on Friday, defying President Donald Trump’s veto threat by including provisions like a clampdown on funding for his planned wall on the border with Mexico.
The House passed its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, by a 220 to 197 vote, without a single Republican voting in favor of the bill and after some of the most liberal Democrats opposed it as they pushed for a reduction in defense spending.
After a blistering Capitol Hill testimony by first responders and comedian Jon Stewart, in which he lambasted members of Congress for their lack of compassion in providing necessary funding for the health care needs of 9/11 responders, the House has voted to permanently reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2090. The vote total was 402 to 12.
After disrupting global markets by imposing tariffs on steel, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods and even washing machines and solar panels, Trump has decided against putting a cap on uranium imports, at least for now.
The move deals a blow to domestic uranium miners, while freeing the nation’s already-struggling nuclear power industry from the prospect of higher fuel costs.
Canada is the largest exporter of uranium to the U.S., accounting for 35% of all imports, the Energy Information Administration said, citing 2017 data. Australia, Russia and Kazakhstan are also big suppliers.
Federal courts have blocked some efforts by the administration to withhold money from sanctuary cities, including an executive order issued by the president in 2017 that would have barred them from receiving federal grants “except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” Courts also barred the Justice Department from imposing new immigration enforcement-related conditions on Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, the biggest source of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions.
The 9th Circuit’s ruling Friday concerned a different program, Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, grants, which are used to hire more police officers. Previously, the Justice Department has given extra points to cities that agree to hire veterans, or that operate early intervention systems to identify officers with personal issues, or that have suffered school shootings.
In a ruling that pro-abortion rights advocates called “rogue,” an Oklahoma judge upheld a state law on Friday that banned the most common abortion method for women at least 14 weeks into a pregnancy.Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong declined to strike down the 2015 ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, a method considered to be the “standard of care” for women seeking an abortion in the second trimester, according to Julie Rikelman, Litigation Director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that challenged the state law.
Once a final order is issued by the courts, the law will take effect immediately, though Rikelman said her group plans to immediately appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
A racist declaration
Despite public outcry, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) re-signed a proclamation Thursday declaring July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in the state, honoring the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and former Confederate general.
Forrest is known to history as a bloodthirsty slave trader and the KKK’s very first grand wizard. In 1864, he led Confederate soldiers to commit what’s known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, according to The Washington Post. Three hundred Union soldiers, including 200 black soldiers, were murdered there, often at point-blank range.