The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution Thursday that would require President Donald Trump to get congressional approve before using the military to engage in hostilities with Iran. The vote was 224-194.
In an earlier statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had criticized the Trump administration for conducting the airstrike last week that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani without consulting Congress.
She called the airstrike a “provocative and disproportionate” action that endangered U.S. troops and diplomats.
The resolution calls for the president to halt the use of U.S. forces against Iran unless Congress has declared war or given statutory approval, or unless such military action is necessary to defend against an imminent attack against the United States, its territories or armed forces.
“The administration must work with the Congress to advance an immediate, effective de-escalatory strategy that prevents further violence,” Pelosi said. “America and the world cannot afford war.”
White House spokeswoman Hogan Gidley called Thursday’s resolution “misguided” and “ridiculous.”
“This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. armed forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies and attempts to hinder the president’s authority to protect America and our interests in the region from the continued threats.”
Although Thursday’s resolution is nonbinding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote that it has “real teeth.”
“It is a statement of the Congress of the United States ... (it will) protect American lives and values,” Pelosi said.
With Democrats in control of the House, the measure was expected to easily pass, but its fate in the Republican-controlled Senate is less clear.
Top administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and CIA Director Gina Haspel, went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief members of both the House and Senate about the decision to carry out the airstrike against Soleimani.
Many Democrats criticized the session as lacking specific justifications for the strike. Republicans, with a few exceptions, emerged supportive of the administration’s actions.
“I’m convinced that had decisive action not been taken, we could very well be standing here today talking about the death of dozens, if not hundreds of Americans at the hands of Shia militias working as proxies for the Iranian regime,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said that based on the officials’ presentation, “It does not meet what I consider to be an imminent threat.”
Republican Senator Jim Risch said that after hearing the information available to Trump, “it would have been negligent, it would have been reckless and it would have been an intentional disregard for the safety of Americans for the president not to act and not to take out Soleimani.”
Two Republicans back debate
Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul, both Republicans, said after the briefing they would support a resolution under the War Powers Act.
“The debate is a 70-year-long debate that began in 1950 with Korea and [President Harry] Truman. ... Our duty under the Constitution is for us to debate when we go to war. And we, for one, are not going to abdicate that duty,” Paul said.
And one of Trump’s most vocal Republican defenders, Florida’s Matt Gaetz, bucked his party and voted for the resolution, saying on the House floor that he represents more U.S. troops in the House than any other member.
“I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington. That sergeant died a patriot and a hero. If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress, we ought to have the courage to vote for or against them,” Gaetz said.
The House resolution text labels Iran a state sponsor of terrorism that engages in destabilizing activities across the Middle East, with Soleimani as the lead architect of many of those actions.
It says the United States has an inherent right to self-defense against imminent attacks, but that in those cases the executive branch should tell Congress why military action is necessary, why it needs to happen within a certain period of time, and what the harm would be in missing that window. It also says the administration should explain why taking military action would likely prevent future attacks.