US House votes to limit Trump war powers on Iran
The US House of Representatives has approved a largely symbolic resolution seeking to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to make war on Iran.
The measure passed the Democratic-run chamber 224-194, but faces an uphill climb in the Republican-held Senate.
It aims to mandate congressional approval for any conflict with Iran, except in cases of an imminent attack against the US.
Neither the US nor Iran has declared plans for further military action.
Iran this week fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing American forces, injuring no-one, after the US last week killed a senior Iranian commander in a Baghdad drone strike.
Thursday’s measure directed the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces” against Iran unless granted congressional authorization.
It offered an exception when necessary to “defend against an imminent armed attack”.
Even if the House measure cleared Congress, it would not face a potential Trump veto because it is known as a concurrent resolution, which does not require a presidential signature.
The proposal cited the 1973 War Powers Act, which granted Congress the ability to check the president’s power to commit the US to armed conflict.
But legal questions remain unresolved as to whether Congress can use a concurrent resolution to bind the president.
The Democratic leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said earlier on Thursday she did not believe Mr Trump had made the US safer after last week’s drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California called the resolution a “meaningless vote”, while Republican House Whip Steve Scalise dismissed it as “a press release″.
Mr Trump, a Republican, had tweeted that he hoped “all House Republicans will vote against Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution”.
He also made a new claim about the intelligence behind the air raid, telling reporters at the White House the Iranians were “looking to blow up our embassy” in Iraq.
The war powers resolution gathered momentum after a congressional briefing on Wednesday by administration officials seeking to justify the attack.
Following the briefing by the secretary of state, defence secretary and CIA director, two Republicans senators broke ranks.
Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky said they might back a similar resolution in the Senate seeking to limit the president’s war powers.
Their potential defection raises the chances for the measure in the upper chamber, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.
Mr Lee told reporters it was “the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served”.
He said the administration officials had asked them not even to debate the president’s authority to strike Iran. He described their approach as “un-American” and “insane”.
But most Republicans lawmakers have stood by the president.
Doug Collins of Georgia claimed Democrats were “in love with terrorists” and grieving more for Soleimani than for US service personnel killed by the Iranian commander.
“They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani,” he told Fox News.