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 PelosiPelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO 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 LeeHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick Barbara Lee: Congress should focus on eliminating poverty MORE (D-Calif.) came shortly after the House approved a bill from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Khanna calls for internet 'fairness doctrine' in response to controversial Trump tweets Khanna: Coronavirus has 'accelerated' the need for rural broadband 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 TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' 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 CheneyHillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump ramps up attacks against Twitter The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up 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. ReedA quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill 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) GaetzTrump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections Trump to order review of law protecting social media firms after Twitter spat: report On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions MORE (Fla.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat MORE (Ohio), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieHouse holds first-ever proxy votes during pandemic House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting House adopts historic rules changes to allow remote voting MORE (Ky.) and Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Hurd says China engaged in global disinformation campaign; US unemployment highest since Great Depression The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Chef José Andrés says most political leaders today are not acting with urgency; Dems crafting 'Rooseveltian' relief package Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says public health threat of loneliness compounded by COVID-19; Trump says task force will 'evolve' 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 GallagherRep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research 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 RoyHouse passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter House Republicans to file lawsuit to halt proxy voting MORE (Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Carper staffer tests positive in Delaware MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonBipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments Bipartisan bill aims to help smallest businesses weather the coronavirus crisis Lawmakers press HHS for answers on coronavirus drug distribution 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.