Armed Services votes down amendments on Trump travel, properties

Armed Services votes down amendments on Trump travel, properties
© Greg Nash

Two Democratic amendments aimed at President Trump’s travel expenses and potential business profits failed late Wednesday.

The House Armed Services Committee voted 30-32 for an amendment from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to prohibit Pentagon funds from being used at properties owned by Trump or his immediate family members.

Republican Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Mike Coffman (Colo.) joined all committee Democrats in voting for the amendment.

The committee also voted 31-31 on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) that would have required quarterly reports on Trump’s travel expenses. The tie meant the amendment failed.

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Jones, Coffman and Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) voted with Democrats.

Democrats argued their amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) were to make sure taxpayer dollars meant for the Pentagon aren’t being wasted, that Trump isn’t using the presidency for profit and that Trump isn’t violating the emoluments clause in the Constitution that prevents officials from receiving payments from foreign governments.

Republicans, meanwhile, shot back that Democrats were wasting the committee’s time and re-litigating the 2016 election.

One of the Republicans who opposed the Democratic amendments was Rep. Mike Conaway (Texas), who is also leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

On Speier’s amendment, Conaway said it was not one of the “worthy issues” the committee had been considering up to that point.

On O’Halleran’s amendment, Conaway added that it has “nothing to do with the amount of money foreign governments spend.”

“It will be a campaign item three years from now,” he said. “Whoever campaigns against the president will be able to use this over and over again. And this is the House Armed Services Committee. We don’t oversee the federal bureau of ethics.”

Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithHouse passes fix to defense bill's medical approval provision GOP chairman 'increasingly' concerned about using old war authorization House passes 2B defense policy bill MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the committee, conceded the issue wasn’t going to be settled by the committee but said Trump’s behavior is “unprecedented” and requires robust debate.

“This is unprecedented. This is not just about how often the president travels,” Smith said. “What is entirely different here is that we have a president who owns a lot of properties. He owns a number of them where foreign visitors have come because the president has asked them to.”