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Senate panel passes amendment to bar using troops against protesters

Senate panel passes amendment to bar using troops against protesters
© Greg Nash

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment aimed at blocking President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE from deploying active-duty troops against protesters.

The amendment, from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democrats in standoff over minimum wage Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs MORE (D-Va.), was approved in a voice vote during the committee’s closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday, the senator’s office said Thursday.

“My other priority was something I would never have thought I needed to do until last week: prevent the use of military force against peaceful protesters,” Kaine said in a statement Thursday. “I was pleased my colleagues voted to include my amendment in the defense bill. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

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Kaine announced last week he would offer the amendment after Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that creates an exception to the general prohibition on using the U.S. military to enforce domestic laws.

Trump made the threat amid the height of the protests against police violence and racial injustice that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Protests around the country were largely peaceful, but a small number turned violent and looting was reported. Trump threatened to deploy troops if governors did not “dominate” the protesters.

Kaine’s amendment would block the Pentagon from using funding and personnel against peaceful protesters, his office said.

A separate amendment, offered by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), to amend the Insurrection Act was not approved. That measure failed on a party-line vote, according to a news release from his office.

Blumenthal will continue to push for his amendment when the NDAA is considered by the full Senate, according to the release, though few amendments are typically voted on when the bill is on the Senate floor.

“Our armed forces swear an oath to protect our constitutional freedoms, not to limit them. I’m disappointed more of my Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues don’t agree that the use of military force against Americans at home should demand at least the same Congressional oversight that applies to his use of force against adversaries abroad,” Blumenthal said in a statement. "I’m going to keep fighting for these provisions when the NDAA comes to the Senate floor and as it makes its way through the House.”