Following an escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran, disgruntled Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have voted in favor of a War Powers Resolution meant to limit President Trump’s military action toward Iran.
As expected, the resolution passed almost entirely along party lines, but both parties had some defectors. Eight Democrats voted against the measure and three Republicans voted in favor of it. Independent Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party last year, also voted in favor of the measure.
“We deserve the respect from the administration and that Congress deserves under the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor. “The Constitution of the United States calls that there be cooperation when initiating hostilities.”
The resolution is “nonbinding,” which means it is pretty much a meaningless gesture — more symbolic than legal — but the Democrats say it’s a reminder that the Constitution requires Congressional approval to go to war and said conflict with Iran could have serious consequences that deserve public consideration.
Both the House and Senate are introducing their own legislation proposals to put control of military actions firmly in the hands of Congress.
The move comes in the aftermath of a Trump administration briefing on the killing of high-ranking Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“It’s an insult to the Constitution,” Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said. “The Constitution said the power to declare war was to be given to Congress. They specifically did not give that power to the president.”
The measure also aimed to handcuff Trump when it comes to future strikes.
The resolution says that “Congress has not authorized the president to use military force against Iran.” The measure “directs the president to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless there is a specific blessing by Congress.
“The president has the right and duty to protect this nation and our citizens from terrorism. That’s what he continues to do, and the world is safer for it,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley responded. “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. These Congressional actions are completely misguided. In fact, this ridiculous resolution is just another political move because, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, it’s non-binding and lacks the force of law.”
Members of the Trump administration and many Republicans contend the president’s actions fall under a law signed a week after 9/11 granting presidents the authority to use force against terrorists and nations that harbor them.
“For the party that claims they care about the Constitution, Democrats might want to brush up on their facts,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “If they did, they’d realize their actions today are shameful and are embarrassing even by the low standards they set in their impeachment inquiry.”