House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate
The House Armed Services Committee has voted against limiting presidential authority under the Insurrection Act, the law President Trump threatened to invoke to deploy active-duty troops in response to protests against racial injustices.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), failed largely along party lines in a 25-31 vote. Several moderate or vulnerable Democrats voted against the amendment: Reps. Kendra Horn (Okla.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Jared Golden (Maine), Elaine Luria (Va.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.) and Gil Cisneros (Calif.).
Last month, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act at the height of the protests, saying he would deploy active-duty troops if governors did not “dominate” demonstrators.
The 1807 act creates an exception to the general prohibition on using the U.S. military to enforce domestic laws. It was last used by former President George H.W. Bush at the request of California’s governor to quell the 1992 Rodney King riots.
Trump has not invoked the Insurrection Act despite his threat, but Democrats are still pushing changes to the law after federal law enforcement used force to clear protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House. Trump also deployed thousands of National Guardsmen to Washington, D.C., and the administration ordered active-duty soldiers to deploy to outside D.C. and be ready to enter the city if ordered.
Escobar’s amendment would have required a president to make a certification to Congress that a state is unwilling or unable to suppress an unlawful obstruction or rebellion before invoking the Insurrection Act.
It would also have given Congress the power to pass a resolution to terminate a president’s use of the act.
The debate over the amendment was the most heated of the House Armed Services Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act markup Wednesday.
Tempers flared as Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) attempted to talk over each other, and Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) attempted to intervene.
Byrne first attempted to talk over Brown, but stopped after Smith took control of the proceeding and told Byne “you know the rules … don’t act aggrieved.”
When it was Byrne’s turn, Brown attempted to talk over him, and when Smith tried to stop that, Brown did not yield.
When Byrne implored Smith to intervene, Smith told him to “chill.”
After repeatedly saying Brown’s name, Smith shouted, “Mr. Brown” and struck his gavel three times.
“Anthony,” an exasperated Smith said as Brown kept talking. “Are you kidding me, Anthony? Anthony, please suspend.”
Brown then asked Smith to treat him the same as Byrne, saying he “didn’t hear a first name admonition” against Byrne. Smith replied that was because Byrne stopped talking.
Smith then turned back to Byrne, who yielded time to Brown. Brown used that time to apologize.
“What I’m going to do is use my 30 seconds to make a very sincere, genuine apology to you, to the chairman and to this committee,” Brown said.
Smith said later in the markup he and Brown spoke to each other and that “we’re all good.”