House passes measure seeking to limit Trump on Iran

The House on Thursday approved a measure aimed at restricting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE’s ability to go to war with Iran, a day after a number of lawmakers expressed frustration at the briefing where the administration provided its arguments for a drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 

In a largely party-line vote of 224-194, the House passed a war powers resolution that would direct the president to end military hostilities with Iran unless Congress specifically authorizes it or the United States faces an “imminent armed attack.”

The measure would not need Trump’s signature because it’s what’s known as a “concurrent resolution.” But that has also left Democrats open to criticism that the resolution is just a messaging bill since concurrent resolutions are typically nonbinding, though their use to force the end of military hostilities under the War Powers Act is untested in court.

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House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office MORE (D-Calif.) insisted Thursday the resolution has “teeth” and would send a strong message.

“This is with real teeth,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. “We’re taking this path because it does not require … a signature of the president of the United States. 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.”

The administration has argued killing Soleimani was necessary to prevent an “imminent” attack, but has proved little evidence publicly beyond citing his past attacks. Trump also claimed Thursday that Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Democrats and some Senate Republicans have expressed anger over what they described as a lack of information at an administration briefing, which took place one day after Iran responded to the Soleimani killing by firing missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. 

Democrats said the briefing — which was delivered by Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon may treat coronavirus patients aboard Navy hospital ship A defining moment in our medical supply chain crisis Military personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe new war for soft power hegemony Organizing evacuations during a shutdown The Saudi-Russia oil fight is the last thing the economy needs in a pandemic MORE, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelFormer CIA chief: Not 'right' for Haspel to applaud at State of the Union Schiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley — offered unconvincing evidence that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack.

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

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“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!”

While most Republicans fell in line, there were three defections.

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) Gaetz2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Critics hit Florida governor over lack of 'sweeping' coronavirus response MORE (R-Fla.), a vocal Trump supporter, 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.”

"I don't think that our country needs to get pulled into another forever Middle East war in the absence of congressional approval. I'm very pleased that my amendment stripping out any reference to Soleimani, stripping out any critique of the president was adopted, and as a result, I'm going to vote for the resolution," Gaetz told The Hill.

"I had a very productive conversation with the president and I know that he wants to end these wars as badly as I do,” he added. “Matter of fact, he told me that he wants to end these wars even more than I do."

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThe Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast GOP challenger seizes on outrage against Massie MORE (R-Ky.) and Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyLessons from the front line — Florida's fight with sea level rise Overnight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides 2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' MORE (R-Fla.) also crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the measure.

Most Republicans, though, argued the resolution was a show vote intended to undermine Trump.

“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 McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPelosi scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid MORE (R-Calif.) said at his weekly press conference.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that a separate law that said a concurrent resolution was binding was an unconstitutional “legislative veto.” But some legal analysts argue the War Powers Act “is in a unique category,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Some Democrats, too, opposed the measure over it being a concurrent resolution.

“I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace and therefore will not support this resolution,” centrist Rep. Max RoseMax RoseOvernight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with outbreak | Pentagon shipment of ventilators delayed | Pompeo urges countries to be more 'transparent' with virus data New York representative to deploy with National Guard as part of coronavirus response Democratic lawmaker on stimulus vote delay: 'There will be blood on Thomas Massie's hands' MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement ahead of the vote. “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.”

A total of eight Democrats voted against the resolution, including Reps. Ben McAdams (Utah), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamHouse chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May Second Capitol Police officer tests positive for coronavirus MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornOvernight Energy: Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns | New EPA order limits telework post-pandemic | Lawmakers urge help for oil and gas workers Bipartisan lawmakers urge assistance for oil and gas workers Overnight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops MORE (Okla.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyPelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Sunday shows preview: State governors and top medical officials prepare for next week of COVID-19 response Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive MORE (Fla.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerInfrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill NJ lawmaker tests negative for COVID-19 MORE (N.J.) and Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops 5 states to watch on Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (Va.).

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The House may have more votes on Iran in the coming weeks. Pelosi vowed Thursday to vote to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force, which authorized the Iraq War and which the Trump administration has 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.

The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to move on a similar war powers resolution from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (D-Va.). His measure is a “joint resolution,” though, and so would have the force of law — but also need Trump’s signature.

“I think we would like to try to get one to the president's desk,” Kaine said Thursday on taking up his measure instead of the House measure.

Democrats can force a vote on Kaine’s measure as soon as Tuesday in the Republican-controlled chamber. It’s unclear, though, whether the resolution can muster the simple majority needed to pass the Senate.

In June, four Republicans supported a measure that would have blocked funding for military action against Iran: Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (Maine) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranRand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate Sinema criticizes Paul for alleged behavior ahead of coronavirus test results: 'Absolutely irresponsible' Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (Kan.). Four Republicans would give the war powers resolution 51 votes, assuming all Democrats vote for it.

Paul and Lee announced Wednesday they support Kaine’s proposal after the administration’s Iran briefing, which Lee called “insulting and demeaning.”

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Collins and Moran have not announced a position on the resolution. Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate GOP lukewarm on talk of airline bailout Trump, GOP scramble to keep economy from derailing MORE (R-Ind.) has also said he’s undecided on the resolution.

Another complicating factor for the Senate is the possibility of the House sending over articles of impeachment against Trump before it can take up the war powers resolution. That would likely push a vote on the war powers resolution until after the impeachment trial. Pelosi said Thursday she would send the articles “soon.”

Juliegrace Brufke and Jordain Carney contributed