House Votes to Limit Trump’s War Powers

January 31, 2020

On January 30, the House of Representatives passed two measures to limit President Trump’s ability to conduct military action against Iran. The first proposal, passed by a vote of 236-166, would repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for the war in Iraq. The second bill, approved by a 228-175 vote, would prevent future tax dollars from funding military action against Iran without congressional approval. The votes were largely along party lines, with only four Republicans voting in favor of the bills in the Democratic-controlled House. The measures were expected to die in the Republican-led Senate.

The bills followed a vote in the House on January 9 aimed at limiting President Trump’s ability to engage in hostilities against Iran under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The 1973 bill was meant to limit President Richard Nixon’s powers toward the end of the Vietnam War. The new resolution directed 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,” except when necessary to defend against an imminent armed attack. 

The three votes came after Trump authorized the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Qods Force, on January 3. Many Democrats and a smaller number of Republicans thought Congress should have been consulted or notified about the operation because the drone attack could have sparked a wider armed conflict.

Democrats said that the three bills would help reassert congressional war powers that are defined in the constitution. “For far too long, Congress has been missing in action on matters of war and peace,” said Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), who sponsored the 2002 authorization repeal. “It is time to end giving blank checks to any president to wage endless wars.”

Republican lawmakers argued that the amendments would endanger national security by preventing quick action from the president to defend U.S. interests. “After President Trump took decisive action to take out a brutal Iranian terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, Democrats now seek to restrain our president and restrict his ability to protect our nation,″ said Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA).  

Other Republicans criticized Democrats for pinning the measures to an unrelated commemorative coins bill. “This is a sham. You're using a commemorative coin bill on the floor of the House so we cannot debate the merits of this constitutional question. That is a shame. And just on that basis alone I vote no,” Representative Tom Reed (R-NY) said before the vote.

President Trump initially remained neutral on the proposed measures. “I want everyone, Republican and Democrat, to vote their HEART!” he wrote on Twitter the day before the vote. But later that evening he denounced the Democrats attempt to “take away authority Presidents use to stand up to other countries and defend AMERICANS.”

 

 

TITLE I—NO WAR AGAINST IRAN ACT

3 SEC. 101. SHORT TITLE.

4 This title may be cited as the ‘‘No War Against Iran

5 Act’’.

6 SEC. 102. PROHIBITION OF UNAUTHORIZED MILITARY

7 FORCE IN OR AGAINST IRAN.

8 (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:

9 (1) The acquisition by the Government of Iran

10 of a nuclear weapon would pose a grave threat to

11 international peace and stability and the national security of the United States and United States allies,

13 including Israel.

1 (2) The Government of Iran is a leading state

2 sponsor of terrorism, continues to materially support

3 the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and is responsible

4 for ongoing gross violations of the human rights of

5 the people of Iran.

6 (3) Article I of the United States Constitution

7 requires the President to obtain authorization from

8 Congress before engaging in war with Iran.

9 (b) CLARIFICATION OF CURRENT LAW.—Nothing in

10 the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law

11 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note), the Authorization for Use

12 of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public

13 Law 107–243; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note), or any other provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of

15 this Act may be construed to provide authorization for the

16 use of military force against Iran.

17 (c) PROHIBITION OF UNAUTHORIZED MILITARY

18 FORCE IN OR AGAINST IRAN.—

19 (1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), no Federal funds may be obligated or expended for any use of military force in or against

22 Iran unless Congress has—

23 (A) declared war; or

24 (B) enacted specific statutory authorization for such use of military force after the date

1 of the enactment of this Act that meets the requirements of the War Powers Resolution (50

3 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).

4 (2) EXCEPTION.—The prohibition under paragraph (1) shall not apply to a use of military force

6 that is consistent with section (2)(c) of the War

7 Powers Resolution.

8 (d) RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this title

9 may be construed—

10 (1) to prevent the President from using necessary and appropriate force to defend United States

12 allies and partners if Congress enacts specific statutory authorization for such use of force consistent

14 with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution

15 (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.);

16 (2) to relieve the executive branch of restrictions on the use of force, reporting, or consultation

18 requirements set forth in the War Powers Resolution

19 (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.); or

20 (3) to authorize the use of military force.

 

TITLE II—REPEAL OF AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002

REPEAL OF AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107–243; 50 U.S.C. 10 1541 note) is hereby repealed.