WASHINGTON — Defying a veto threat, Congress has approved a bipartisan measure to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran.
The House gave final legislative approval to the measure Wednesday, 227-186, sending it to Trump. The president has promised to veto the war powers resolution, warning that if his “hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”
The resolution, sponsored Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., declares that Trump must win approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. Kaine and other supporters say the measure is not about Trump or even the presidency, but instead is an important reassertion of congressional power to declare war.
The resolution “sends a clear message that the American people don’t want war with Iran and that Congress has not authorized war with Iran,’’ said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
While tensions with Iran have abated since a U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s top general in early January, the resolution clarifying Congress’ power to declare war is still important, Engel said.
“Congress doesn’t have to wait until the president alone decides to use military force again,’’ Engel told House members during floor debate Wednesday. “It’s our responsibility to do something, because we know the tensions could flare up again at a moment’s notice. Iran has not been deterred as the administration promised.’’
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the war powers measure “divisive and irresponsible” and based on a false premise.
“It orders the president to terminate hostilities against Iran. The problem is, for the other side, we are not engaged in hostilities in Iran,’’ McCaul said.
If the U.S. military launches strikes in Iran, “I believe that the president would need to come before this body to ask for a new authorization” for the use of force, McCaul said. “But that is not what we are facing.’’
The House vote marked a rare exertion of authority from Congress, which also moved to impose restrictions on U.S. involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen last year after U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a gruesome murder at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey. Trump promptly vetoed that measure.