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House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran

The House has passed a resolution aimed at constraining President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE’s ability to take military action against Iran, sending it to the president’s desk for his expected veto.

In a largely party-line 227-186 vote, the House approved the resolution that would direct the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against” Iran unless Congress specifically authorizes it. Six Republicans voted for the measure.

The Senate passed the resolution in a 55-45 vote last month, with eight Republicans siding with Democrats to support it. Neither chamber of Congress is expected to have the votes to override Trump’s likely veto.

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The passage of the resolution comes after tensions with Iran spiked earlier this year to the point where Washington and Iran appeared to be on the brink of war.

U.S.-Iran tensions have risen since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions.

But hostility skyrocketed in early January with a U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Iran responded with a rocket attack on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. More than 100 U.S. troops were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries caused by the attack.

Since the strikes, both sides have stepped back from the brink. But just before the House started voting Wednesday, the U.S. military confirmed that 15 rockets hit Camp Taji in Iraq, and several reports said that two Americans and a British service member were killed.

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Officials have not placed blame for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Iran-backed militias that operate in Iraq.

During floor debate on the measure, some Republicans argued the resolution is no longer relevant.

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulMcCaul says Trump has responsibility to tell potential Capitol attackers to 'stand down' Threats to Capitol prompt House to cancel Thursday votes Blinken speaks with Ethiopian leader about human rights concerns in Tigray MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the resolution is “based on a false promise.”

“It orders the president to terminate hostilities against Iran. The problem is, for the other side, we are not engaged in hostilities in Iran,” McCaul said.

But supporters of the war powers resolution argued it is still necessary to assert Congress’ constitutional authority over declaring war.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelProgressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.Y.) said while lawmakers are “all relieved that tensions have ratcheted down,” it is “not an accurate reading of the law” to say the resolution is unnecessary or wouldn’t have an effect because the United States and Iran aren’t in a shooting war.

“Congress doesn’t have to wait until the president alone decides to use military force again,” Engel said ahead of the vote. “Indeed, it’s our responsibility to do something. Because we know that tensions could flare up again at a moment’s notice, Iran has not been deterred as the administration promised.”

Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the resolution: Reps. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHouse to launch antitrust hearings starting next week Congress faces news showdown with Facebook, Google House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (Colo..), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCan members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (Ky.), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithHouse Republicans urge Democrats to call hearing with tech CEOs Democrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (Va.), Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats under pressure to deliver on labor's 'litmus test' bill Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act MORE (N.Y.), 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 UptonBiden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Republicans, please save your party Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump MORE (Mich.).

McCaul on Wednesday also attacked Democrats for bringing the resolution up for a vote while the nation is gripped by fear over coronavirus, arguing constituents he’s spoken to recently have asked about the virus and “were really not concerned about the war powers resolution.”

The Trump administration has defended the Soleimani strike as necessary to “reestablish deterrence” with Iran. Administration officials have also claimed, without providing evidence, that Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks. 

Democrats have blasted the administration’s shifting explanations for the drone strike and failure to provide evidence on Soleimani’s alleged plots. 

The House previously passed a similar resolution in January a week after the Soleimani strike. The main difference between that measure and the one passed Wednesday is the type of resolution. The January resolution would not have had to get Trump’s signature, but that also raised questions about whether it would be binding.

The resolution passed Wednesday, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: White House open to reforming war powers | Army base might house migrant children | Fauci scolds military on vaccine White House open to reforming war powers amid bipartisan push Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (D-Va.), requires Trump’s signature.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure, saying it “fails to account for present reality.” Ahead of last month’s Senate vote on the resolution, Trump also urged senators to vote against by arguing it would “show weakness.”