The House on Thursday approved a resolution designed to block President Trump’s ability to conduct a war with Iran, moving to reassert congressional power but bringing warnings from Republicans that lawmakers were undercutting the commander in chief at a critical moment in the Middle East.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Michigan Democrat and a former CIA analyst, passed by a margin of 224-194. Three Republicans — Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tom Rooney of Florida and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and newly independent Justin Amash — voted for the resolution, while eight Democrats joined most Republicans in voting against the measure.
The vote came at a time of maximum strain between the White House and Hill Democrats, many of whom say Mr. Trump lacks the authority to unilaterally lead the country into armed conflict with Tehran.
The nonbinding resolution calls on the White House “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military,” unless Mr. Trump receives congressional approval or “to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions,” as set out under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.
The White House slammed the resolution Thursday evening, calling it a “misguided” measure that would undermine presidential authority.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Mr. Trump has a “right and duty” to defend the nation from terrorism.
“This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies,” he said.
In her weekly press conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers had decided to make the resolution non-binding, meaning it does not have to go to Mr. Trump’s desk for a signature.
Lawmakers said the legislation — which was expected to be vetoed by the president if approved — as a strong sign to the White House of their disapproval of the move rather than launch a partisan legal fight.
“This is a statement of the Congress of the United States. I will not have that statement diminished by having the president veto it or not,” said the California Democrat.
Immediately after the resolution was approved, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said in a tweet that “the “resolution that Democrats voted for has as much force of law as a New Year’s resolution. How embarrassing.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been sparring over the proposed resolution for nearly a week, after Mr. Trump authorized the fatal strike on Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday.
Mr. Trump acted without notifying Congress, igniting fury among Democratic lawmakers as well as a small group of Republicans.
Ahead of the resolution’s passage, the president said he fully agreed with a “smart analysis” by former White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, who argued Thursday that the 1973 War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional.
“It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Constitution allocated foreign affairs authority between the president and Congress,” Mr. Bolton tweeted. “The [1973 resolution] should be repealed.”
Democrats have insisted that the move was an act of war that exceeded Mr. Trump’s authority as commander-in-chief as Soleimani was a high-level political and military figure in Iran’s government, while Republicans argue that the threat posed by the Quds Force leader justified the strike.
Mr. Trump encouraged House Republicans to vote against what he called “Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution” in a tweet Thursday morning. “Presidential Harassment!”
The measure will soon head to the Senate, where members are considering a similar bill introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, that would require the president to withdraw U.S. forces engaged in military activity against Iran within 30 days unless it is in response to an “imminent” threat.
Mr. Kaine’s resolution has picked up some Republican support, most notably from Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have criticized the administration’s decision and slammed a high-level briefing on the ongoing situation with Iran as “an unmitigated disaster.”
Lawmakers in both chambers made efforts earlier this year to include similar language in the National Defense Authorization Act to restrict Mr. Trump’s ability to use military action in Iran. The resolutions did not make it into the final bill.
⦁ Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.
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