The House on Thursday approved a measure aimed at restricting President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right 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.
House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Democrats suffer blow on drug pricing as 3 moderates buck party 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 EsperBiden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoAmerica needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race It's in our interest to turn the page on relations with Suriname MORE, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections CIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director 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.
“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) GaetzWashington ramps up security ahead of Sept. 18 rally Police brace for Capitol rally defending Jan. 6 mob Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments 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 MassieReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Kentucky GOP lawmaker deletes tweet comparing vaccine mandates to Holocaust MORE (R-Ky.) and Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyGOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Pricing carbon can help solve the infrastructure funding dilemma Allies of GOP leader vow to oust Liz Cheney 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 McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race 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 Rose'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief 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 Cunningham'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Top cyber Pentagon official overseeing defense contractor project placed on leave Joe Cunningham to enter race for South Carolina governor MORE (S.C.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornHow will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? Why does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? The US's investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it MORE (Okla.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles House Democrat says she won't support reconciliation bill 'at this early stage' MORE (Fla.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerCongress braces for spending fights amid threat of government shutdown Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill Sirota slams 'fake argument' for splitting infrastructure package, reconciliation bill MORE (N.J.) and Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaVirginia races offer an early preview of Democrats' midterm challenges House panel approves B boost for defense budget Overnight Defense & National Security — America's longest war ends MORE (Va.).
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 KaineWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill 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 PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (Maine) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act before slow mail turns into no mail Kaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Seven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill 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.”
Collins and Moran have not announced a position on the resolution. Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHow to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill 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