House passes resolution to limit Trump's war powers against Iran

Key Points
  • The House passed a resolution to limit President Donald Trump's war powers against Iran.
  • The measure, which does not carry the force of law, said Trump should withdraw U.S. forces from conflict with Iran within 30 days if he does not get congressional approval.
  • The vote came as Democrats worry about mounting tensions in the Middle East leading to armed conflict.
U.S. Army paratroopers of an immediate reaction force from the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, board their C-17 transport aircraft as they leave Fort Bragg, North Carolina, January 1, 2020.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters

The House passed a resolution Thursday to curb President Donald Trump's war powers against Iran as the president aims to navigate sharp tensions in the Middle East.

The Democratic-held chamber approved it by a 224-194 vote. Three Republicans and an independent voted for it, while eight Democrats opposed it.

Democrats, worried about conflict following the U.S. killing of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani last week, passed a measure to give Congress more oversight of White House military action against Tehran. The measure calls for Trump to stop military force against Iran within 30 days if he does not have congressional approval.

The vote to rein in Trump's latitude to clash with Iran continues a recent push by Democrats and some Republicans in Congress to reassert the legislature's authority to declare war. The measure introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is a concurrent resolution — meaning the president cannot veto it and it does not carry the force of law.

Even so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that it has "real teeth" to check the president. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., has put forward a similar resolution, which may not pass the Republican-held Senate.

Watch President Trump's full statement on the tensions between the US and Iran
Watch President Trump's full statement on the tensions between the US and Iran

"We must keep the American people safe," Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "The House will pass a war powers resolution to limit the president's military actions regarding Iran. Congress is reassuring our long-established oversight responsibilities as we mandate that if no further congressional action is taken, the administration's military hostilities with regard to Iran must end."

The vote comes only two days after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces. The U.S. reported no casualties in the attacks. Trump said Wednesday that Iran "appears to be standing down," adding that the U.S. "will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions" on the state.

On Thursday morning, Trump urged all House Republicans to vote against the war powers resolution. Right as the vote started, he tweeted again, saying he agrees with former national security advisor John Bolton's contention that the 1973 War Powers Resolution "should be repealed." The law aimed to give Congress more power to check the president's ability to take military action.

Donald Trump tweet

Following a Trump administration briefing on the operation to kill Soleimani on Wednesday, Pelosi and other Democrats argued the White House did not have a coherent strategy in Iran. While nearly all Republicans have backed Soleimani's killing, a few GOP lawmakers criticized the administration after the briefing.

Republicans who opposed the war powers resolution Thursday contended it would hamstring Trump if the U.S. needed to quickly respond to hostilities.

Iran deal prevented them from acquiring a nuclear weapon: UK's Hammond
Iran deal prevented them from acquiring a nuclear weapon: UK's Hammond

"Now, they want to limit the president's ability to defend America," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said of Democrats before the vote. "That's just dangerous."

Slotkin said Thursday that the resolution was crafted to "make sure it in no way ties the president's hand," making clear he can use force against an imminent threat.

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