WASHINGTON — A sharply divided House voted Thursday to force President Donald Trump to come to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran, in a sharp response to his ratcheting up of hostilities with Tehran without the explicit approval of the legislative branch.
The vote was 224-194, almost entirely along party lines, to curtail Trump’s war-making power. It came as Democrats insisted that the president must involve Congress in any escalation against Iran, and Republicans — following Trump’s lead — accused Democrats of coddling the enemy in questioning the commander in chief at a dangerous moment.
The action was yet another constitutional challenge of the president by the Democratic-led House after its historic vote in December to impeach Trump, and as the Senate was preparing for a trial on whether to remove him. The debate over war powers raged a week after the president ordered a strike against Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top security commander, a major provocation taken without informing Congress that has had a cascade of consequences.
Amid the heightened tensions with Iran, Democrats vowed to impose another check on the president, voicing grave concerns that without legislative action, Trump would careen toward war.
“If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a former CIA and Pentagon analyst specializing in Shiite militias and the sponsor of the legislation. The measure, she added, “allows us to start that debate as our founders intended.”
In moving forward legislation invoking the War Powers Resolution, lawmakers reignited a bitter dispute that was as much about Trump’s volatile style of policymaking as it was about how to balance congressional prerogatives against a president’s power to wage war. The measure itself was largely symbolic, without the force of law and unlikely to tie Trump’s hands even if the Senate endorsed it.
The Senate could separately move as soon as next week to take up a similar resolution sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.