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House Passes Two Bills to Prevent Trump's Further Actions in Iran

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House Passes Two Bills to Prevent Trump's Further Actions in Iran

2020-01-31 20:00:151 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Eliot Engel (Image source: Thomas Altfather Good via Wikimedia Commons)

There were many people who were alarmed after the drone action that was ordered by Donald Trump to take out Top Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani. Is caused a back-and-forth action between the U.S. and Iran, and Iraq was pulled into it as well. Each move seemed to be worse than the last and inching closer to war.

On Thursday the House approved two bills aimed at preventing the president from military action against Iran using federal funds without consulting Congress. It would also repeal an 18-year-old law that he and his administrators have used to justify killing Soleimani. Both of these House measures have some Republican support but will still face difficulty in the Senate where it can be blocked from going for a floor vote. 

The Republicans who agreed with Trump's decision to take out Soleimani differ with him over his desire to pull U.S. troops from the Middle East. They've called out critics as being soft on terrorism.

"No one is mourning the loss of Soleimani. That's not the issue," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) before the vote. "Congress needs to take action now to make it clear that the president does not have the unilateral authority to take America into another costly war, in the Middle East or anywhere else." 

The administration has been admonished by some for going against constitutional rules. Multiple resolutions and bills between both branches of Congress have been passed trying to address the many reasons used for why a drone was sent to kill Soleimani.

The strike is explained away by some by saying it was in self defense, protecting troops stationed in Iraq from an impending attack. Trump has said it was retaliation for killings by terrorists that are supported by Soleimani's forces. A recent death of a U.S. contractor in Iraq has been held up as a prime example. 

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is behind the first proposal that passed the House.  This would prevent the president from using federal funds for military action against Iran unless Congress had approved or in cases of self defense to prevent an imminent strike.

The second bill that was passed was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-C) and would repeal a 2003 law of using military action to handle the 2003 Iraq invasion. It's been used by later administrations to justify various hostilities, just like it was used to take out Soleimani. 

Earlier this month the House and Senate tried to pass war-powers resolutions to restrict Trump from being able to strike Iran. One passed the House but is non-binding, and although the other has the votes to pass the Senate, it's been put on hold because of the impeachment trial.

None of the measures, however, have the votes to sustain a presidential veto. Trump has said different things regarding the Democrats' efforts to repeal the original Iraq War authorization from 2003. He tweeted on Wednesday that the House should "vote their HEART" and reminded them there are less than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and that number is decreasing. 

However, he also tweeted several hours later criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats for trying "to take away authority presidents use to stand up to other countries and defend AMERICANS." In another tweet he wrote that "Democrats want to make it harder for presidents to defend America and stand up to, as an example, Iran."

The president has often wanted to reduce or eliminate the military presence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, going against his own administration as well as many Republicans. 

Those Republicans he is up against believe withdrawing troops will embolden terrorists and leave allied forces that helped fight the Islamic State open to retaliation. However, GOP support for measures to limit Trump's actions appears to be declining. The measures the House passed on Thursday are similar to two that were passed last year as annual defense bill amendments. Fewer Republicans joined the Democrats during this round of House measures.

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican Michael McCaul referred to the recent measures as irresponsible legislation that would undermine counterterrorism missions. He accused Democrats of "exploiting our greatest generation" and "hijacking" a bill that would grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Merchant Mariners of World War II. He believes their additions to the bill would complicate efforts to have the Senate pass it. 

Democrats believe, however, that these measures are necessary as a check on Trump, as his national security advisers have indicated they don't feel obligated to consult Congress.

"There is no blank check for war," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) on Thursday. "The president must come to the Congress. ... Only Congress can declare war, not the president." 

Despite this, senators who met with officials privately this week say that the administration will still not commit to consulting Congress before ordering future strikes. The same senators have also complained to officials that they should stop holding Iran briefings only behind closed doors if they aren't going to share the classified information with Congress.

Engel also announced this week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend a hearing about Iran on Capitol Hill soon, although the date has not been determined.

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