House approves measure to restrain Trump’s actions on Iran

WASHINGTON — Reigniting a debate over who has the power to declare war, the Democratic-controlled House on Thursday approved a resolution asserting that President Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran.

The war powers resolution is not binding on the president and would not require his signature. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nonetheless insisted it “has real teeth” because “it is a statement of the Congress of the United States.”

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The measure will “protect American lives and values” by limiting Trump’s military actions, Pelosi said. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence.”

The White House called the resolution “ridiculous” and “completely misguided.”

And Trump, at a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, claimed he had no obligation to give lawmakers advance warning, saying Democrats like Pelosi “want us to tell them so they can leak it to their friends in the corrupt media.”

The House passed the measure, 224-194, with just three Republicans voting in support. Eight Democrats opposed the measure.

A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., faces an uphill fight in the GOP-run Senate. Kaine’s efforts received a boost Thursday as Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an ex-Marine, said he might support the war powers measure. Two other Republican senators said Wednesday they would back Kaine’s plan.

“We are members of a separate and distinct branch of government. It is our duty not to take anyone’s word for things as we are dealing with matters of life and death,” Young said, adding that he wished Trump administration officials had provided more intelligence information during a briefing Wednesday on a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

Pelosi, in announcing the House vote, called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani “provocative and disproportionate.”

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced the Democratic measure as little more than “a press release designed to attack President Trump,” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called it a “meaningless vote” on a measure that will never be sent to the president or “limit his constitutional authority to defend the American people.”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said, “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.”

The House vote came a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified.

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Soleimani “was traveling the region making plans to bring an attack against American personnel and American forces.” He said it was not possible to share full details of the intelligence with lawmakers.

“When it comes to intelligence we have to protect sources and methods, there’s only certain amount we can share with every member of Congress,” Pence said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “But those of us who have seen all the evidence know that there was a compelling case of imminent threat against American personnel.”

Trump said Thursday that he “had calls from numerous senators and numerous congressmen and women saying it was the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.”

Referring to criticism by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Trump said: “They want information that honestly I think is very hard to get. … It really had to do with sources and information that we had that really should remain at a very high level.”

Lee, a conservative from Utah, said the briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue,” in the nine years he’s served in the Senate.

Paul, of Kentucky, said administration officials justified killing Soleimani based on the 2002 authorization of force in Iraq. “That is absurd. That’s an insult,” he said.

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Pelosi scheduled the House vote after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani killing by launching missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American troops. No casualties were reported.

“Congress hereby 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 Congress declares war on that country or enacts legislation authorizing use of force to prevent an attack on the U.S. and its forces, the five-page resolution states.

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