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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 PelosiOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' 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 LeeHow leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal Democratic Party leaders urge Biden to rejoin Iran deal, lift Trump's 'bad-faith sanctions' MORE (D-Calif.) came shortly after the House approved a bill from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill 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 TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? 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 CheneyOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? 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 ReedTom ReedLawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off Hundreds of businesses sign on to support LGBTQ rights legislation House panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations 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) GaetzGaetz associate Joel Greenberg expected to plead guilty next week Buckingham Palace requests 'Trump Train' remove image of queen from bus Kinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote MORE (Fla.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Boehner finally calls it as he sees it The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran MORE (Ohio), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE (Ky.) and Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states 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 GallagherSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals Hillicon Valley: Colonial Pipeline attack underscores US energy's vulnerabilities | Biden leading 'whole-of-government' response to hack | Attorneys general urge Facebook to scrap Instagram for kids MORE (Wis.), Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier Mooney14 Republicans vote against resolution condemning Myanmar military coup Republicans block 25th Amendment resolution to oust Trump House to vote on impeaching Trump Wednesday MORE (W.Va.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden expresses optimism on bipartisanship; Cheney ousted Warren says Republican Party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' MORE (Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertBiden meets with bipartisan senators to discuss potential infrastructure bill Lawmakers offer competing priorities for infrastructure plans The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Which path will Democrats take on COVID-19 bill? MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Mark Ruffalo joins bipartisan lawmakers in introducing chemical regulation bill 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.