House votes to rein in Trump's military authority

The House on Thursday voted to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), which the Trump administration has used to justify its controversial drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The House approved the bill to repeal the Iraq War authorization in a largely party-line vote of 236 to 166.

“Members of Congress continue to have serious, urgent concerns about the president’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Thursday’s vote.

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Congress’s power to declare war, she added, “has been, shall we say, usurped by administrations both Democratic and Republican, and now to an extent that practically abrogates whatever is in the Constitution.”

The vote on the measure sponsored by Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeCalifornia lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Senior black Democrats urge party chairman to take responsibility for Iowa Lawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program MORE (D-Calif.) came shortly after the House approved a bill from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKhanna introduces bill to add a third gender option on US passports Omar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Democrats call for Twitter, Facebook to take down Pelosi video posted by Trump MORE (D-Calif.) that would block funding for military action against Iran.

Khanna's bill was approved in a 228-175 vote.

House Democrats scheduled votes on Khanna's and Lee’s bills as fears of war between the United States and Iran spiked earlier this month after President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE ordered the drone strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani.

Iran retaliated with a missile strike on an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops, an attack that led to traumatic brain injuries for dozens of U.S. troops. 

The Trump administration has cited the 2002 AUMF in its legal justification for the Soleimani strike, which took place on Iraqi soil and came after the administration blamed an Iranian-backed militia for a rocket attack in Iraq that killed a U.S. contractor and an attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

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The 2002 AUMF, which was passed to authorize the Iraq War, allows military action to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” The authorization has been used to some extent by successive presidents to justify military action against terrorist threats, though administrations more prominently use the post-9/11 AUMF for operations against terrorists. 

"I stand here once again urging Congress to do its job, this time by repealing the long outdated and unnecessary 2002 AUMF," Lee, who voted against both the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, said Thursday ahead of the vote. "Not only is it not needed for any current counterterrorism operations, but repealing it would have absolutely no impact on the administration’s ongoing military operations.”

By contrast, Lee continued, leaving the AUMF on the books would “allow any administration to use it for military action that Congress never intended to authorize.”

Before the vote, the Trump administration sent mixed messages on its position regarding Khanna's and Lee’s bills.

The White House issued veto threats that called the measures “misguided.” The administration argued that repealing the 2002 AUMF “would embolden our enemies” and that blocking funding for military action would “hinder the president’s ability to protect United States diplomats, forces and interests in the region from the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies.”

On Wednesday morning, though, Trump appeared to release Republicans to vote for the 2002 AUMF repeal, tweeting that both Republicans and Democrats should “vote their HEART!

But later that day, Trump slammed Democrats for pushing bills he said would “make it harder” to defend against Iran.

“With Votes in the House tomorrow, Democrats want to make it harder for Presidents to defend America, and stand up to, as an example, Iran. Protect our GREAT COUNTRY!” Trump tweeted Wednesday evening.

“Nancy Pelosi wants Congress to take away authority Presidents use to stand up to other countries and defend AMERICANS. Stand with your Commander in Chiefs!” he added in a second tweet.

Most Republicans stuck with Trump, calling Khanna's and Lee’s bills “dangerous” and intended to “weaken” Trump.

Republicans also fumed about the procedure Democrats used to bring the bills to the floor.

The House voted on Khanna's and Lee’s measures as amendments to an unrelated commemorative coin bill. That prevented Republicans from offering what’s known as a motion to recommit, which is the last opportunity to amend a bill in the House.

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Motions to recommit are used often by the minority and usually fail. But Republicans successfully used them several times last year to force centrist Democrats into tough votes and split with the party.

“Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats are so unsure of their own substantive case that they are hiding behind House rules to make sure that Republicans can’t even bring any amendment to this legislation,” said Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed Liz Cheney blasts NYT for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican.

The procedural move prompted some Republicans who previously voted for both bills in July to vote against them on Thursday, with Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThis week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced 'the main problem' that allowed 9/11 New Yorkers blocked from Global Entry program over immigrant license law MORE (R-N.Y.) saying he switched his vote because the debate was now a "sham."

Still, a few Republicans broke with Trump and voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF, as well as to block funding for military action on Iran. Republican Reps. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzBottom Line Graham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE (Fla.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (Ohio), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieOvernight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial MORE (Ky.) and Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (Ind.) voted for Khanna's bill.

Lee's measure garnered GOP support from Gaetz, Davidson and Massie, as well as Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherPelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei Hillicon Valley: Tech confronts impact of coronavirus | House GOP offers resolution to condemn UK over Huawei | YouTube lays out plans to tackle 2020 misinformation GOP lawmakers introduce resolution denouncing UK's Huawei decision MORE (Wis.), Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (W.Va.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 'Medicare for All' will turn into health care for none The advantage of paying for medical care directly MORE (Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Democrats seek to preempt Trump message on health care | E-cigarette executives set for grilling | Dems urge emergency funding for coronavirus Democrats slam GOP on drug prices in bilingual digital ads Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonUpton cites Sanders's popularity in saying he will seek reelection Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Democrats seek to preempt Trump message on health care | E-cigarette executives set for grilling | Dems urge emergency funding for coronavirus Democrats slam GOP on drug prices in bilingual digital ads MORE (Mich.).

Gaetz, a staunch Trump supporter, said on the House floor that he had "come to vote my heart," an apparent reference to Trump's Wednesday morning tweet.

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The Florida Republican was a co-sponsor of Khanna's bill when it received a vote in July. He was also one of three GOP lawmakers to support a war powers resolution the House approved earlier this month that sought to constrain Trump's ability to take military action against Iran.

Neither Khanna's nor Lee’s bill is expected to get a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate. Both were previously approved by the House as amendments to the annual defense policy bill, but they were stripped from the final version of the legislation during negotiations with the Senate.

Unlike a separate war powers resolution expected to be voted on in the Senate, Khanna's and Lee’s measures do not have built-in mechanisms for Democrats to force a vote in the Senate.

Updated at 1:31 p.m.