House approves measure to limit President Trump’s war powers against Iran
WASHINGTON – The House approved a resolution Wednesday that would bar President Donald Trump from launching a military attack against Iran without explicit congressional authorization.
The measure now goes to the White House, where Trump is expected to veto it. The president has said it would undermine U.S. security and “show weakness.”
Supporters concede they do not have the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a veto.
But Wednesday’s 227-to-186 vote still marked a rare bipartisan effort to curb Trump’s war powers and underscored lawmakers’ lingering concerns that U.S. tensions with Iran could escalate into a full-fledged war. Six Republicans joined 220 Democrats in supporting the war powers resolution. The measure cleared the Senate last month with eight Republicans and all Democrats voting yes.
“The American people don’t want war with Iran. The Congress has not authorized war with Iran. That should be crystal clear,” Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during the House debate.
Engel, D-N.Y., and other Democrats said Trump brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran when he green-lighted a deadly strike targeting Tehran’s most powerful military leader, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, on Jan. 2. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at an Iraqi air base housing American troops, which left more than 100 service members with traumatic brain injuries.
“This isn’t deterrence,” Engel said, noting that Iran has also increased its uranium enrichment stockpile. “We’re now closer to a war with a country that’s closer to possessing a nuclear weapon.”
The Trump administration and its Republican allies said the measure was unnecessary and would undermine Trump’s ability to respond to Iranian aggression.
“This political war powers resolution is based on a false premise,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the top GOP lawmaker on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
He said Trump has shown “remarkable restraint” in using military force and has made it clear he doesn’t want war with Iran.
“Iran and its proxies are watching right now as we spin our wheels,” McCaul said. “And what they see … (is) a divided America that does not fully support the ability of our commander in chief to adequately respond to threats against Americans.”
The White House has blasted the war powers measure as “untimely and misguided.”
In a statement threatening a veto, the White House said the U.S. “is not currently engaged in any use of force against Iran, in part because of the sound policies and decisive, effective actions of this administration.”
The chief author of the resolution, Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, hailed Wednesday’s vote as a long overdue assertion of congressional authority on matters of war.
“For years, Congress has abdicated its responsibility on matters of war, but now a bipartisan majority in both the Senate and House has made clear that we shouldn’t be engaged in hostilities with Iran without a vote of Congress,” Kaine said. He said his legislation doesn’t prevent Trump from defending America against imminent attack.
“Rather, the resolution demands that the decision of whether or not we go on offense and send our troops into harm’s way should only be made after serious deliberation and a vote of Congress,” he said. “If President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.”
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