Defense

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

The House has passed a resolution aimed at constraining President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' 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.

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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.

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.

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Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGOP lawmakers raise questions about WHO's coronavirus timeline China must be held accountable for its egregious actions against Hong Kong Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House 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.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelChina must be held accountable for its egregious actions against Hong Kong Voice of America not extending foreign journalists' visas: report New York candidates left on hold as primary results trickle in 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.”

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Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the resolution: Reps. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHouse panel advances police reform bill The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Val Demings calls for a new DOJ Office of Police Standards; Trump, GOP to pull convention from NC House GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments MORE (Colo..), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieBiggs, Massie call on Trump to remove troops from Afghanistan Massie wins House GOP primary despite Trump call to be ousted from party Rep. Massie called out by primary opponent for previous display of Confederate flag MORE (Ky.), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran Abortion wars flare up in Congress MORE (Va.), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Athletic lays off 46 staffers as pandemic hits media industry A quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power MORE (N.Y.), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP lawmaker: Refusal to wear masks is 'tragic' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push 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.

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The resolution passed Wednesday, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police 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.”