House to vote on war powers resolution limiting Trump on Iran


WASHINGTON (CBS News) — The House is set to vote Thursday afternoon on a resolution limiting President Trump’s ability to engage in hostilities against Iran under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as Democrats attempt to reassert Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war amid a tense standoff with the Islamic Republic.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the resolution on Wednesday, and lawmakers debated the measure for several hours Thursday. The resolution is sponsored by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense.

How to watch the war powers resolution vote

  • What: The House votes on a resolution limiting President Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran
  • Date: Thursday, January 9, 2020
  • Time: Approximately 5:00 p.m. ET
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Watch: WWAY CBS

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The president authorized a strike on Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani last week without consulting or notifying Congress, incurring outrage from Democratic lawmakers as well as some Republicans.

Thursday’s measure directs the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces” against Iran without congressional authorization, except when necessary to “defend against an imminent armed attack.”

In a tweet Thursday, Mr. Trump said he hopes all House Republicans “will vote against Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution.”

“Also, remember her ‘speed & rush’ in getting the Impeachment Hoax voted on & done,” he said. “Well, she never sent the Articles to the Senate. Just another Democrat fraud. Presidential Harassment!”

The resolution in the House would direct the president to end hostilities with Iran under a section of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. That resolution, intended to constrain President Richard Nixon’s powers in the final throes of the Vietnam War, says that any forces engaged in hostilities outside the U.S. “shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.”

A concurrent resolution would not require Mr. Trump’s signature to take effect. But legal questions about Congress’ authority to direct the executive branch via concurrent resolution remain unresolved. In 1983, the Supreme Court struck down a similar provision dealing with concurrent resolutions in another law, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. But some legal experts contend the War Powers Resolution’s provision would survive legal scrutiny despite the court’s ruling, citing several differences between the laws.

Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told reporters she had initially been skeptical about the measure being a concurrent resolution, as opposed to a more standard joint resolution.

“When I first saw it, I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that it was not the strongest thing we could do,” Jayapal said on Capitol Hill. However, a joint resolution would need a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate, which is not needed for a concurrent resolution. She said a concurrent resolution was “the best way to send a message that doesn’t get undermined by the president.”

“I now actually think it’s a stronger way to send a message than ending up relying on the president, because what we’re really saying is, ‘Look, we’ve got bicameral, bipartisan support to rein you in and make sure you follow the Constitution and respect our powers,'” Jayapal said.

However, another Democrat said he would not vote for the resolution, arguing Mr. Trump had the authority to order the strike on Soleimani.

“President Trump was justified in killing a terrorist who was responsible for the murder of hundreds of American servicemembers and was in the process of planning to kill more,” said Congressman Max Rose in a statement. “Unfortunately, today’s War Powers Resolution is a non-binding resolution that simply restates existing law and sends the message that war is imminent. I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace and therefore will not support this resolution.”

Republican Congressman Mark Meadows excoriated Democrats in a speech on the House floor, saying all Americans should be glad that Soleimani is dead, and slammed the “nonbinding resolution that is nothing more than a press release.” He also suggested Democrats were unpatriotic by opposing the strike against Soleimani.

“I would ask my colleagues opposite how many Americans does a terrorist have to kill before they join with us,” Meadows asked Democrats. “All this does is it emboldens our enemies, to suggest that Americans are divided.”

Still, the resolution will almost certainly pass in the House, where Democrats have the majority. Restrictions on Mr. Trump’s authority face dimmer prospects in the Senate, but cracks in the president’s support among Republican senators began to emerge late Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah fumed to reporters after a briefing by top administration officials about the strike that killed Soleimani and the intelligence underlying the legal justification for taking him out. Lee said the officials’ presentation was so inadequate that it convinced him to support a similar war powers resolution backed by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Lee called the briefing “probably the worst briefing at least on a military issue I’ve seen,” saying it was “insulting.”

“They had to leave after 75 minutes while in the process of telling us we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public,” Lee said. Republican Senator Rand Paul also said the inadequacy of the briefing had convinced him to support Kaine’s war powers measure. Unlike the resolution in the House, Kaine is proposing a joint resolution.

Pelosi also said Wednesday that the House may soon vote on legislation to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, as well as additional legislation to prevent the president from spending funds on hostilities with Iran without explicit congressional authorization.

Earlier, Mr. Trump appeared to support de-escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, after Iran launched ballistic rocket strikes targeting military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq on Tuesday in response to Soleimani’s death.

“I’m pleased to inform you, the American people should be extremely grateful and happy. No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” the president said in an address to the nation from the White House on Wednesday. “We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.”