House Approves Resolution to Curb Trump’s War Powers on Iran

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The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to approve a resolution aimed at restricting the President’s ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval.

The measure passed by a nearly party-line vote of 224-194, but there were a few defectors from both sides of the aisle. Three Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, while eight Democrats voted against it. Independent Rep. Justin Amash, voted In favor of the measure, despite earlier voting against debate of the measure.

The three Republican that voted for the resolution were Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Francis Rooney of Florida crossed party lines to vote in favor. Democratic Reps. Max Rose of New York, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Stephanie Murphy of Florida all voted against the resolution.

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Gaetz (R-Fla.) backed the resolution after Democrats agreed to his amendment to remove a line from the findings section of the measure that said “the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases, risks significant escalation in hostilities between the United States and Iran.”

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On the House floor, Gaetz argued that Congress should have the right to send troops into war. 

“I represent more troops than any other member of this body. I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington,” Gaetz said. “If our servicemembers have the courage to fight and die in these wars, Congress ought to have the courage to vote for or against them. I’m voting for this resolution.”

Rose, a Democrat who won in a district Trump won 2016, said the President was justified in the strike on Soleimani.

“President Trump was justified in killing a terrorist who was responsible for the murder of hundreds of American servicemembers and was in the process of planning to kill more,” Rose said in a statement ahead of the vote. “I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace and therefore will not support this resolution. Unfortunately, today’s War Powers Resolution is a non-binding resolution that simply restates existing law and sends the message that war is imminent. Going forward, Congress must be proactive in living up to our Constitutional duties to declare war and authorize the use of military force. This resolution is not that.”

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is known as a “concurrent resolution,” meaning it requires only the approval of both chambers of Congress and does not go to the president for his signature. The measure would directs the President to terminate the use of U.S. Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran unless Congress authorized it or if there is an “imminent armed attack upon the United States.” It also aims to handcuff President Trump military authority power when it comes to future strikes unless there is a specific blessing by Congress.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal told reporters she had initially been skeptical about the measure being a concurrent resolution, but she said it is “the best way to send a message that doesn’t get undermined by the president.”

“I now actually think it’s a stronger way to send a message than ending up relying on the president, because what we’re really saying is, ‘Look, we’ve got bicameral, bipartisan support to rein you in and make sure you follow the Constitution and respect our powers,'” Jayapal said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the resolution at her weekly press conference on Thursday, saying it is a “statement” despite the fact the President will veto it.

“This is a statement of the Congress of the United States and I will not have that statement be diminished by whether the President will veto it or not, Pelosi said. “We deserve the respect from the administration and that Congress deserves under the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States calls that there be cooperation when initiating hostilities.”

Republicans argued that the resolution was just a show vote intended to undermine Trump, adding Democrats are empowering Iran.

“This is a meaningless vote that only sends the wrong message that the House Democrats would rather stand with the socialist base than stand against Iran,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA.) said Thursday during his weekly press conference. “For the party that claims they care about the Constitution, Democrats might want to brush up on their facts. If they did, they’d realize their actions today are shameful and are embarrassing even by the low standards they set in their impeachment inquiry.”

Ahead of the vote, Trump urged Republicans on Twitter to oppose the resolution.

“Hope that all House Republicans will vote against Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution,” he tweeted Thursday morning. “Also, remember her ‘speed & rush’ in getting the Impeachment Hoax voted on & done. Well, she never sent the Articles to the Senate. Just another Democrat fraud. Presidential Harassment!”

After the passage, the White House responded saying the resolution is undermine and the President “has the right and duty to protect this nation and our citizens from terrorism. That’s what he continues to do, and the world is safer for it.”

“This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies, and attempts to hinder the President’s authority to protect America and our interests in the region from the continued threats,” White House Spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement Thursday evening. “These Congressional actions are completely misguided. In fact, this ridiculous resolution is just another political move because, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, it’s non-binding and lacks the force of law.” The White House reiterated its stance that the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani was authorized under “his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive as well as the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.”

Pelosi vowed that the House will have more votes on Iran in the upcoming weeks. First in her agenda is to bring to vote a repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which the Trump  used as legal justification for the Soleimani strike. She has also said the House may vote on a bill to block funding for military action against Iran.

In the Senate, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced his own war powers resolution last week that directs the President to remove US forces from hostilities with Iran no later than 30 days after the resolution is enacted. The measure is privileged, which means that the Republican-controlled Senate will have to hold a vote. 

Sens. Rand Paul(R-KY) and Mike Lee(R-UT) are supporting Kaine’s measure. Sens. Susan Collins(R-MA) and Todd Young(R-IN) are in talks with Kaine about the legislation and could support the measure.

“We are at the brink of war right now. So I think the stakes are much higher now,” Kaine said in arguing for the measure. “I think it increases the necessity of the bill.”

The Senate measure is expect to be brought up for a vote early next week.