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 PelosiMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Pelosi must go — the House is in dire need of new leadership MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Thursday’s vote.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 LeeSteph, Ayesha Curry to be recognized by the Congressional Hunger Center Democrats unveil plan declaring racism a public health issue With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban MORE (D-Calif.) came shortly after the House approved a bill from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill Interview: Jerry Brown on climate disasters, COVID-19 and Biden's 'Rooseveltian moment' Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing 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 TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 ENERGY: Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups | Kudlow: 'No sector worse hurt than energy' during pandemic | Trump pledges 'no politics' in Pebble Mine review Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups  Press: The big no-show at the RNC 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. ReedCentrist House group offers bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic Diabetes Caucus co-chairs say telehealth expansion to continue beyond pandemic 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) GaetzLara Trump campaigns with far-right activist candidate Laura Loomer in Florida House to vote on removing cannabis from list of controlled substances The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from GOP convention night 1 MORE (Fla.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (Ohio), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieGOP lawmaker praises Kyle Rittenhouse's 'restraint' for not emptying magazine during shooting Rep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Liz Cheney wins Wyoming GOP primary in reelection bid 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 GallagherHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE (Wis.), Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyHouse GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought 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 Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation MORE (W.Va.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyPelosi must go — the House is in dire need of new leadership GOP lawmakers want answers from Disney on Mulan, China Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy touts bipartisanship in first campaign ad MORE (Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority Democrat Hiral Tipirneni wins Ariz. primary to challenge Rep. David Schweikert Ethics watchdog finds 'substantial' evidence of improper spending by Rep. Sanford Bishop MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOn Paycheck Protection Program, streamlined forgiveness is key Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Progressives soaring after big primary night 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.