U.S. House votes to check President Trump on military action against Iran

U.S. Capitol Complex. Photo from United States Capitol Police.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday on a resolution to curtail President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval. 

The chamber voted 224-194, largely along party lines, to approve the resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), which would direct Trump to halt the use of U.S. armed forces for hostilities against Iran unless it’s authorized by Congress or it’s “necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack” against the United States. 

The vote on the resolution came days after Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time. Military officials said Suleimani had active plans to kill Americans, but Trump’s critics in Congress have said the evidence of such a threat hasn’t been sufficient to risk a U.S. war against Iran.

“Last week in our view, the president, the administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate air strike against Iran, which endangered Americans and did so without consulting Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday ahead of the vote. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.” 

Three Republicans and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats to vote for the resolution. Eight Democrats voted against the measure. 

Matt Gaetz in Fox News appearance

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, was among the Republicans who supported the Democratic-led effort. 

“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 them or against them,” Gaetz said. “I support the president. Killing Suleimani was the right decision but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision.” 

Meanwhile, Democrat U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, representing areas of Central Florida, voted against the resolution, along with many Republicans, according to a news release.

She said in a statement:

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy

“While Americans may have different views on the timing and wisdom of the strike on Soleimani, the United States now faces new and evolving threats from Iran and its proxies—and tens of thousands of American service members and other personnel remain in harm’s way. We must be prepared to act swiftly, proportionally, and effectively to keep America and our allies safe.

“The War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts the president’s ability to engage our nation in military conflict without authorization from Congress. Based on my experience as a national security specialist in the Pentagon and on classified briefings, I voted against the War Powers Resolution today because I am not prepared to unduly limit our nation’s ability to respond to different contingencies that may arise.

“At the same time, I believe Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure the administration has a pragmatic and principled strategy for the broader Middle East—one that safeguards America and our allies from the Iranian government’s darkest impulses, but also seeks to avoid unnecessary escalation between our two countries that could lead to war. Preserving peace, stability, and the security of all Americans must be our top priority.”

Another Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, said ahead of the vote that his decision to vote for the resolution wasn’t “about supporting or opposing President Trump.” 

Massie voted for Trump in 2016 and he plans to vote for him again, he said. “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority, but more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.” 

Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and a former CIA analyst, said the resolution was more than a theoretical exercise for her. Slotkin’s husband is a U.S. Army veteran, her step-daughter is an Army officer and her son-in-law’s unit is stationed at Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which was targeted by Iranian missiles this week, she said. 

“If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation,” Slotkin said. She stressed that her resolution doesn’t tie the president’s hands when it comes to defending the United States. But when it comes to longer-term war, “We have a constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force.”

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a military veteran, said ahead of the vote, “Our founders vested in Congress the solemn responsibility of sending our sons and daughters to war.” He told his colleagues, “Do not believe the fear mongering; this resolution does nothing to prevent the president from protecting the nation against imminent threats.” 

Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) said he had significant concerns about the administration’s response to questions about whether Suleimani’s killing made Americans more or less safe. Trone questioned whether the administration had a coherent strategy to avoid war. “The American people have seen no evidence that killing Suleimani was the result of an imminent threat,” he said. 

Many House Republicans lined up to defend the president ahead of the vote, as some accused Democrats of putting politics ahead of national security. 

“I’m afraid the reason we are here today again is out of pure opposition to this president and not to serious national security issues at hand,” said Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.). 

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a Marine veteran, accused his Democratic colleagues of pursuing a “political effort that will have the practical effect only of undermining our military deterrent in the Middle East.” 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) warned that the resolution “emboldens our enemies to suggest that the American people are divided.” Meadows said, “At some point we have to stand up and let the long arm of justice go in and take out these terrorists.” 

The Democrats’ resolution “curtails the president’s authority to protect American interests in the Middle East,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). “It would essentially tie the president’s hands behind his back as he tries to counter Iran’s shadow campaign against us.” 

The Senate could vote as early as next week on a similar resolution from Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. 

Kaine has been courting Republicans on his effort, which would direct Trump to remove U.S. forces from hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless authorized by a declaration of war or a specific authorization for the use of military force. 

Florida Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.