House passes measure seeking to limit Trump on Iran

The House on Thursday approved a measure aimed at restricting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address 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 EsperOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map Huawei endangers Western values The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge MORE, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelSchiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations House chairman: Pompeo won't testify at Iran hearing Tuesday 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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) GaetzGaetz in Twitter battle with Florida House Republican Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Conservatives slam Warren's call to put transgender women in women's prisons 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 Massie2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week NY Times's Haberman: Trump 'surprised' Iranian strike wasn't 'more of a unifying event' MORE (R-Ky.) and Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOvernight 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' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership 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 RoseSan Francisco mayor endorses Bloomberg Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates Rep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid 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 Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution House passes measure seeking to limit Trump on Iran MORE (Okla.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphySan Francisco mayor endorses Bloomberg Rep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements MORE (Fla.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution House passes measure seeking to limit Trump on Iran MORE (N.J.) and Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaMixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa Tenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden MORE (Va.).

ADVERTISEMENT

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 KaineIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner House war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' 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 PaulLindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden Marsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial Sekulow indicates Trump should not attend impeachment trial MORE (Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (Maine) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses McConnell keeps press in check as impeachment trial starts 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Collins and Moran have not announced a position on the resolution. Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner 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