0647 GMT April 04, 2020
The resolution was adopted on a 224-194 vote, as tensions in the Middle East remain high after a US drone strike assassinated Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani. Iran retaliated with missiles striking two US military bases in Iraq early Wednesday.
Now that the resolution has passed the House it will next go to the Senate.
A briefing by Trump administration officials about the US assassination of Lieutenant General Soleimani backfired on Wednesday, angering two Republican senators and driving them to support a Democratic effort to require congressional approval for any further military engagement, yahoo.com reported.
A visibly angry Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told reporters after the 75-minute briefing from administration officials that he was now supporting a war powers resolution introduced last Friday by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst and senior Defense Department official, is the sponsor of the resolution, which calls on the president "to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran" unless Congress declares war or enacts "specific statutory authorization" for the use of armed forces.
One additional exception outlined in the resolution is if the use of armed forces "is necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States."
A vote on the resolution took place one day after Trump signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran, saying that "Iran appears to be standing down" in the wake of its retaliatory strikes on the Ain al-Asad airbase and another base in Erbil, which came after the US airstrike assassinated the Iranian commander.
Despite the apparent de-escalation, however, Democrats have continued to express alarm over the strike and the administration's justification in taking the action.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday that "members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward" and announced that the House would move forward with a war powers resolution vote.
The House resolution states that "when the US military force, the American people and members of the United States Armed Forces deserve a credible explanation regarding such use of military force."
It also states that "Congress has not authorized the president to use military force against Iran."
Structure of resolution
The structure of the House resolution is unique, calling into question whether it is actually legally binding.
It was introduced as a concurrent resolution, a type of resolution often used for "sense of Congress" bills. They don't go to the president for a signature, and they aren't legally binding.
Past resolutions invoking the War Powers Act have been joint resolutions, such as the Yemen War Powers bill and the Senate version of the Iran War Powers resolution recently introduced by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
But Democratic leaders spent time Wednesday working out how to ensure the House version of the Iran War Powers resolution will also get a vote in the Senate, members told CNN. They landed on the concurrent resolution format.
Unlike joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions are not able to be amended in a floor process known as a motion to recommit. Motions to recommit are the last opportunity for the House to debate and amend a given measure before final passage.
Pelosi defended the resolution at her weekly press conference Thursday, saying it has "real teeth."
"This is a statement of Congress of the United States and I will not have that statement be diminished by whether the president will veto it or not," Pelosi said.
But the question has not been tested in the courts.
A war powers resolution on Iran is also being pushed forward in the Senate, though it is not yet clear if it will have the votes to pass in the Republican-led chamber.
In the Senate, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced his own war powers resolution last week along with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. The measure is privileged, which means that the Republican-controlled Senate will have to hold a vote.
The resolution directs the president to remove US forces from hostilities with Iran no later than 30 days after the resolution is enacted absent a declaration of war by Congress or passage of a new authorization for use of military force, a type of measure that lawmakers can approve to green-light military action.
Even as the military conflict with Iran appeared to have de-escalated on Wednesday, Kaine said that he will continue to press ahead with his effort to limit Trump's authority on Iran.
In their effort to restrain US conflict with Iran, congressional Democrats are invoking the War Powers Resolution, otherwise known as the War Powers Resolution of 1973 or the War Powers Act.
The War Powers Act stipulates parameters of presidential and congressional war powers, including imposing procedural requirements to ensure that presidents keep Congress apprised of military decisions as well as provisions that provide Congress with a mechanism to suspend military operations initiated by the president in certain circumstances.
It was enacted after Congress overrode a veto from then-President Richard Nixon and is aimed at reining in a president's authority to engage the US in military action without congressional approval.