DemDaily: Debating War

January 10, 2020

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed a War Powers Resolution to limit the president's ability to pursue military actions against Iran without congressional consent.

The action comes a week after Trump carried out a out a fatal January 3rd drone strike against top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, without first notifying Congress, as required under the War Powers Resolution.

The War Powers Resolution of 1973, also know as the War Powers Act, is a federal law intended to check the U.S. president's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of the U.S. Congress. It provides that the president can send US Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization," or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States."

The White House defending their decision, saying that it was reacting to an imminent attack on a US embassy.

Concerns that Trump's action was leading the US into a war with Iran were further fueled after Iran, in retaliation, launched a missle attack Tuesday night on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

A Wednesday briefing to Congress by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley did little to assuage fears or provide proof of the initial threat of attack by Iran.

GOP Senator Rand Paul (KY) I join Senator Lee (R/UT-right) in supporting the war powers resolution" (AP/video)

In a sharp departure from other colleagues, two GOP Senators close to Trump came away from the closed-door briefing on Iran with strong words of condemnation against the administration.

Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Utah Senator Mike Lee (R) called it "the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue." Lee cited the administration's warning that Congress would be "emboldening Iran" if lawmakers debated Trump's war powers. Lee called it "insulting and demeaning to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold...and to the Constitution of the United States."

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R), historically a strong ally of the President's, also denounced the briefing, calling it "less than satisfying." He further criticized the administration's claim that the president had the authority to order Soleimani's killing under a 2002 war authorization passed by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"I see no way in the world you could logically argue that an authorization to have war with Saddam Hussein has anything to with having war with people currently in Iraq," adding it was ""particularly insulting to logic, the Constitution, and the intent of our founding fathers."

Both announced they would support a Senate resolution curtailing President Trump's military powers.

Thousands protested Soleimani's killing amid growing conflict between US and Tehran (NBC News)

Thursday's bi-partisan House War Powers Resolution passed 224-194 with the support of three Republicans usually allied with the President, including conservative Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FLA). Gaetz said, "Killing Soleimani was the right decision, but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision."

The resolution was not without Democratic detractors, however, including eight who voted against the measure. Most are in vulnerable seats which Trump won in 2016, including Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), who said, "I don't want to restrict this administration or, frankly, any administration's ability to respond to threats from Iran."

The House bill was introduced as a non-binding "concurrent resolution," which requires only the approval of both chambers of Congress and does not go to the president for his signature. While Republicans argue this makes the bill largely symbolic, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "This is a statement of the Congress of the United States. I will not have that statement diminished by having the president veto it or not."

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has introduced a similar resolution in the Senate, but it is unlikely, in the Republican-controlled upper chamber, that there will be enough votes for passage.

The resolution is expected to come up for a vote next week, possibly around the same time the Senate will be debating the House articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: The Hill, NPR, USAToday, Roll Call

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