Sim­i­lar war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion in Se­nate faces an up­hill climb

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Daly

The House ap­proves a mea­sure aimed at lim­it­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s abil­ity to take mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran with­out Congress’ OK.

WASHINGTON — Reignit­ing a de­bate over who has the power to de­clare war, the Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled House on Thurs­day ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion as­sert­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump must seek ap­proval from Congress be­fore en­gag­ing in fur­ther mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran.

The war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion is not bind­ing on the pres­i­dent and would not re­quire his sig­na­ture. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nonethe­less in­sisted it “has real teeth” be­cause “it is a state­ment of the Congress of the United States.”

The mea­sure will “pro­tect Amer­i­can lives and val­ues” by lim­it­ing Trump’s mil­i­tary ac­tions, Pelosi said. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion must de-es­ca­late and must pre­vent fur­ther vi­o­lence.”

The House passed the mea­sure, 224-194, with al­most no Repub­li­can sup­port. A sim­i­lar pro­posal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., faces an up­hill fight in the GOPrun Se­nate. Kaine’s ef­forts re­ceived a boost Thurs­day as Repub­li­can Sen. Todd Young of In­di­ana, an ex-Marine, said he might sup­port the war pow­ers mea­sure. Two other Repub­li­can sen­a­tors said Wed­nes­day they would back Kaine’s plan.

“We are mem­bers of a sep­a­rate and dis­tinct branch of govern­ment. It is our duty not to take any­one’s word for things as we are deal­ing with mat­ters of life and death,” Young said, ad­ding that he wished Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials had pro­vided more in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion dur­ing a brief­ing Wed­nes­day on a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Ira­nian gen­eral.

Pelosi, in an­nounc­ing the House vote, called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani “provoca­tive and dis­pro­por­tion­ate.”

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Repub­li­can, de­nounced the Demo­cratic mea­sure as lit­tle more than “a news re­lease de­signed to at­tack Pres­i­dent Trump,” while House Mi­nor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy of Cal­i­for­nia called it a “mean­ing­less vote” on a mea­sure that will never be sent to the pres­i­dent or “limit his con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to de­fend the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

The House vote came a day af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion briefed law­mak­ers on its ac­tions in Iran. Democrats and sev­eral Repub­li­cans called the brief­ings in­ad­e­quate, ad­ding that of­fi­cials did not pro­vide enough de­tails about why the at­tack was jus­ti­fied.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence said Thurs­day that Soleimani “was trav­el­ing the re­gion mak­ing plans to bring an at­tack against Amer­i­can per­son­nel and Amer­i­can forces.”

He said it was not pos­si­ble to share full de­tails of the in­tel­li­gence with law­mak­ers.

“When it comes to in­tel­li­gence we have to pro­tect sources and meth­ods, there’s only cer­tain amount we can share with ev­ery mem­ber of Congress,” Pence said on ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.” “But those of us who have seen all the ev­i­dence know that there was a com­pelling case of im­mi­nent threat against Amer­i­can per­son­nel.”

Trump said Thurs­day that he “had calls from nu­mer­ous sen­a­tors and nu­mer­ous con­gress­men and women say­ing it was the great­est pre­sen­ta­tion they’ve ever had.”

Re­fer­ring to crit­i­cism by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Trump said: “They want in­for­ma­tion that hon­estly I think is very hard to get. It re­ally had to do with sources and in­for­ma­tion that we had that re­ally should re­main at a very high level.”

Lee, a con­ser­va­tive from Utah, said the brief­ing by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and other of­fi­cials was “prob­a­bly the worst brief­ing I’ve seen, at least on a mil­i­tary is­sue,” in the nine years he has served in the Se­nate.

Paul, of Ken­tucky, said ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials jus­ti­fied killing Soleimani based on the 2002 au­tho­riza­tion of force in Iraq. “That is ab­surd. That’s an in­sult,” he said.

Pelosi sched­uled the House vote af­ter Iran re­tal­i­ated for the Soleimani killing by launch­ing mis­siles at two mil­i­tary bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops. No ca­su­al­ties were re­ported.

The five-page res­o­lu­tion says “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“un­less Congress de­clares war on that coun­try or en­acts leg­is­la­tion au­tho­riz­ing use of force to pre­vent an at­tack on the U.S. and its forces.

The res­o­lu­tion’s spon­sor, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said it is in­tended to “make clear that if the pres­i­dent wants to take us to war, he must get au­tho­riza­tion from Congress.”

If loved ones are go­ing to be sent to fight in a pro­tracted war, “the pres­i­dent owes the Amer­i­can peo­ple a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion about why, and for what ends,” said Slotkin, a for­mer CIA an­a­lyst and Pen­tagon of­fi­cial who served in Iraq.

Trump did not con­sult with con­gres­sional lead­ers ahead of the at­tack that killed Soleimani and af­ter­ward sent Congress a no­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­plain­ing the ra­tio­nale, but kept it clas­si­fied.

Ahead of Thurs­day’s vote, Trump, who cam­paigned on re­mov­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary from for­eign wars, sug­gested that NATO should be ex­panded to in­clude na­tions in the Mid­dle East. He even sug­gested a new name for the 70-year-old al­liance: “NATOME” short for NATO-Mid­dle East.

Speak­ing to re­porters at the White House dur­ing an un­re­lated event, Trump also said he wants to see more NATO troops in the Mid­dle East be­cause prob­lems there are in­ter­na­tional in scope.


Rep. Il­han Omar speaks Thurs­day in Washington. A war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion passed in the House, 224-194.

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