Updated Jan 8, 2020

House to vote to curtail Trump's war powers against Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Capitol on Jan. 8. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that the House will vote tomorrow on a War Powers Resolution to curb potential military action by President Trump toward Iran.

Driving the news: Members of Congress were briefed Wednesday by top national security officials on the intelligence behind the decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Nothing Trump officials told the House in Wednesday's classified briefing apparently persuaded Democratic leadership against moving forward with the vote on the resolution on Thursday.

The big picture: Democrats and some Republicans have criticized the administration for not obtaining congressional approval before killing one of Iran's most powerful officials. Democrats specifically have questioned claims that there was an "imminent" threat posed by Soleimani, with many stating after Wednesday's briefing that nothing that officials presented them with alleviated their concerns.

What they're saying:

  • Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that they would back a War Powers Resolution brought by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in the Senate, with a frustrated Lee calling it the "worst briefing” he's been to and blasting officials for instructing senators not to debate the strike on Soleimani.
  • House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told reporters: "The position of the administration is that there was an imminent threat, that Solemani was planning things. I think the storming of our embassy was a wake-up call to the administration. Am I convinced of it? I'm not so sure."
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told Axios' Alayna Treene: "Nothing I heard, at any point, makes me think that there was something more imminent. Iran is a danger. Iran is a threat. It's the leading exporter of terrorism in the world. So obviously we're very concerned, but you have to have a strategy, not just military escalation, and it has to be in conjunction with our allies. And clearly that's not the case."
  • Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told Treene: "What has been said publicly by Mike Pompeo was reiterated and truly shocked everyone, that the president is using Article two and the AUMF from 2002, which was an effort to go after Iraq and after Saddam Hussein. A basis on which he could not have taken the action he did."

Context: The AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) gave the president the authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against anyone believed to have been involved or aided the Sept. 11 attacks.

The other side: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Trump's national security officials "answered every important question," arguing on Twitter that "anyone who walks out & says they aren't convinced action against #Soleimani was justified is either never going to be convinced or just oppose everything Trump does."

  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump's most loyal defenders on the Hill, said the briefing "should leave little doubt in any member’s mind that not only did the president make the right call, but that this was a clear and present danger for American interests and American individuals,” per the Washington Post.

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