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Kaine Says Portland Crackdown Reminiscent of Honduran Dictatorship

Tim Kaine speaks at podium with hands in the air
Sen. Tim Kaine at a 2016 rally in Phoneix. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the tactics used by federal agents against protestors in Portland are reminiscent of the Honduran dictatorship he briefly lived under as a Jesuit volunteer in 1980.

President Trump says he’s restoring law and order to a city with continuing protests that have resulted in some property damage. He has vowed to send the agents to more cities over the objections of local and state officials.

But Kaine objected to tactics that have included wearing camouflage and picking up protestors in unmarked cars.

In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Kaine said he was “outraged” over the move and said Trump was using the tactic to boost his election chances.

“This is the kind of thing I might have seen in Honduras,” Kaine said. “When I lived there, it was a military dictatorship. This is not the kind of thing we should see in the United States of America.”

Debates on the use of force against protestors have made it into an annual defense spending bill that is currently being considered by Congress.

The House passed a version of the bill on Tuesday that would require federal law enforcement to identify their name and agency on their uniform. The bill also includes a new requirement that the president consult with Congress before invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows the president to deploy the military domestically in some cases.

Trump threatened to invoke the act in June in response to nationwide racial justice protests.

The amendment passed despite no votes from all but one Republican and 14 Democrats. Voting no were Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-2nd), who flipped formerly Republican seats in 2018.

In a statement, Spanberger said she was “staunchly opposed” to the use of federal agents in Portland, revising the Insurrection Act would do nothing to change the situation because Trump has yet to invoke it.

“I voted against [Monday’s] amendment because we should not substantively change policy of this importance and scope as part of an amendment without debate and a stand-alone vote,” Spanberger said.

Kaine also said he supports an amendment in the Senate that would prohibit the use of unmarked vehicles to make arrests. He sponsored an  amendment that would bar the use of military personnel against peaceful protestors and suggested Trump’s use of federal agents was a workaround of the amendment given it had bipartisan support.

Kaine is also leading a push to rename Confederate army bases. The Democrat said he has enough Republican votes to pass the change as part of a defense package.

President Trump has  threatened to veto the bill. But Kaine told reporters that he thought Trump’s veto would likely be overridden.

“I hope the president will rethink that because the names of these long-gone Confederates are not more important than the defense of the nation or the resources we make available to our troops,” Kaine said.

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill on Tuesday.

Three of the ten army bases that would be renamed are located in Virginia.

Alan Rodriguez Espinoza contributed to this story.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include more context on Spanberger's decision to vote against changes to the Insurrection Act.

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Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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