WASHINGTON — The House passed a resolution Thursday evening calling on President Donald Trump to limit action against Iran following the US attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani without congressional authorization last week.
“Congress hereby directs 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,” the resolution passed Thursday reads. The resolution outlines two exceptions: First, if Congress has declared war or, second, if US forces are needed to defend against an “imminent armed attack upon the United States.”
The resolution, however, is what’s known as a concurrent resolution, meaning it’s nonbinding and will not go to the president’s desk. Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued Thursday morning at her weekly press conference that the resolution has “real teeth.”
“We’re taking this path because it does not require a signature of the president of the United States,” she said, adding that the resolution is a serious statement from Congress and that she does not want that statement diminished by a possible presidential veto.
The resolution passed on a 224–194 vote Thursday evening. Eight Democrats voted against it, and three Republicans crossed party lines to support it. Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party and became an independent last year, also voted in favor of the resolution.
Rep. Max Rose, a first-term New York Democrat, was one of the eight Democrats to vote against the measure. He said in a statement ahead of the vote, “I refuse to play politics with war and peace.” Other Democrats who opposed the resolution included: Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, and Kendra Horn of Oklahoma.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of the president’s closest allies in Congress, joined Reps. Thomas Massie and Francis Rooney of Florida in breaking with fellow Republicans to vote in favor of the resolution. “I support the president. Killing Soleimani was the right decision, but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision. And that's why I'm voting for this resolution,” Gaetz said in an announcement.
While the war powers resolution attracted little Republican support in the House, a similar resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine in the Senate has garnered the support of Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, who have criticized Trump’s justification for his actions in Iran.
The resolution was led by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a first-term lawmaker who previously served in the CIA and with the Department of Defense.
Trump and his allies have argued that the killing of Soleimani was, in fact, a response to an imminent attack. They presented their case to members of Congress in briefings on Wednesday, just hours after Iran retaliated by striking Iraqi air bases housing US troops. In an address to the nation Wednesday morning, Trump said no Americans and Iraqis were killed and that he believes Iran “appears to be standing down.”
Democrats say they are not convinced; when pressed for details, Republicans in Congress have said only that they are classified.
Many congressional progressives were pushing for a resolution even before Wednesday’s briefing. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Rep. Pramila Jayapal said the briefing “didn’t change [her] view on anything at all” and said she was hopeful it would attract Republican votes.
“I started off as being a skeptic of the concurrent, but I now actually think it's a stronger way to send a message than ending up relying on the president,” Jayapal told reporters. “What we're really saying is: Look, we've got a bicameral bipartisan support to rein you in and make sure that you follow the Constitution and respect our powers, and we're not asking you for anything. We're telling you: This is what you must do if you believe in the Constitution.”
As of Wednesday morning, when and if Democrats introduce a war powers resolution to limit Trump’s actions in Iran remained an open question. But almost immediately following the administration’s briefing on Iran for members of the House, Pelosi announced the chamber would quickly move forward with the measure.
“What happened in the view of many of us is not promoting peace but an escalation,” Pelosi said Thursday. “[It’s] not that we have any confidence in the goodness or the good intentions of Iran. ... And I from my intelligence background know how bad Soleimani was. It’s not that we expect good things from them, but we expect great things from us.”
Rep. Justin Amash voted for the resolution calling on Trump to cease hostilities with Iran. An earlier version of this story misstated his vote.