The United States House of Representatives on Thursday approved a nonbinding resolution aimed at reining in the president’s ability to attack Iran in the future without congressional approval.
The resolution comes as criticism over US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in Iraq intensifies. Congress was not consulted prior to the assassination, angering Democrats who fear Trump’s actions could trigger a cycle of escalation leading to war.
The House’s War Powers resolution directs Trump to terminate military operations against Iran except for self-defence and clarifies that the president presently does not have congressional authority to engage in war with Iran. A similar version is expected to be debated in the Senate.
Thursday’s House vote 224-194 fell along party lines and followed days of frustration by Democrats over Trump actions regarding Iran. Three Republicans and one Independent sided with the Democrats. Eight Democrats voted with Republicans against the resolution.
Congress was not consulted prior to the assassination of Soleimani, angering many Democrats who fear Trump’s actions could trigger a cycle of escalation leading to war.
Trump’s decision to order the drone attack on Soleimani was “provocative and disproportionate”, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
The lead sponsor of the House resolution was Democrat Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who served three tours in Iraq and specialised in tracking Iranian-backed Shia militia groups.
“I have followed Iran’s destabilising activity in Iraq up close for my entire professional career,” Slotkin said during floor debate.
“I have watched friends and colleagues hurt or killed by Iranian rockets, mortars and explosive devices,” she added. “If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation.”
Under the US Constitution, the authority to direct military action is divided between Congress and the president. Congress has the power to declare war while the president, as commander-in-chief, has the power to use the military to defend the US.
The War Powers Act of 1973 provides that Congress may direct the president to withdraw US forces from hostilities by passing a resolution in both the House and Senate.
Iran responded to Soleimani’s assassination with missile attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops. Trump said on Wednesday there were no US or Iraqi casualties. He welcomed an apparent pause in hostilities, but announced new economic sanctions on Iran.