House approves measure to restrain Trump’s actions on Iran

By  | 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Reigniting a constitutional debate over war powers, the Democratic-controlled House has approved a resolution asserting that President Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled the vote after Iran fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. (Source: CNN/POOL)

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

The House has passed the measure, 224-194, with almost no Republican support.

GOP lawmakers are calling it a meaningless vote and little more than a “press release" intended to attack Trump.

The measure might be only a symbolic gesture by Democratic lawmakers, who have criticized Trump for not consulting with leaders of both parties when he decided to order a drone strike that killed Iran’s top military leader.

The measure is a special type of resolution that doesn’t get the president’s signature, and the two parties disagree over whether it would have the force of law.

Vice President Mike Pence is responding to congressional criticism that the Trump administration didn’t provide enough evidence with Congress to justify killing a top Iran general.

In television interviews Thursday, Pence said it wasn’t possible to give lawmakers all the intelligence that showed Iran Gen. Qassem Soleimani was preparing to attack U.S. forces and personnel.

Democrats have criticized Trump for not consulting with congressional leaders when he ordered a drone strike that killed Soleimani.

Pence also says Trump will ask allies to scrap the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration. The agreement was intended to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment program in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

The deal has been unraveling since Trump pulled the United States out from it in 2018. He believes it gave Tehran too many economic benefits without doing enough to prevent Iran from eventually developing a nuclear weapon.

Pelosi scheduled the vote after Iran fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Her announcement came shortly after Democrats left a briefing on Iran with administration officials that they criticized as vague. Some Republicans also criticized the briefing.

A Seattle congresswoman says the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights office will investigate reports that travelers of Iranian descent were singled out for extra scrutiny as they crossed the border from Canada into Washington last weekend.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Thursday she had received assurances the matter is being reviewed and that the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would send investigators to Washington.

Civil rights groups and lawmakers have been demanding information following reports that dozens of Iranian-Americans were detained for up to 11 hours at the border crossing in Blaine, Wash.

Iran is sending mixed signals as tensions with the U.S. appear to ease.

President Hassan Rouhani has warned of a “very dangerous response” if the U.S. makes “another mistake,” and a senior commander has vowed “harsher revenge" for the killing of a top Iranian general.

Both sides appeared to step back on Wednesday after Iran launched a series of ballistic missiles at two military bases housing American troops in Iraq without causing any casualties.

Iran said the attack was retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani, the architect of its regional security strategy, earlier this week.

Trump indicated he would not respond militarily after no one was harmed in Iran’s missile strike. Iran appeared to have calibrated its attack to avoid stoking further U.S. retaliation, giving some early warning to its Iraqi allies to avoid casualties.

The country told the United Nations it took “a measured and proportionate military response” to the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and “does not seek escalation or war.”

Trump authorized the Jan. 2 targeted killing of Soleimani after the death of an American contractor in Iraq. He contends his decision saved American lives but has offered few details of the threat that prompted the decision.

Democrats say that by not disclosing those details, Trump is asking the American public to trust the very intelligence reports he has often disparaged. Pelosi says Soleimani’s killing was “provocative and disproportionate."

Iran stated after Soleimani’s death it will no longer honor any of the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord Trump withdrew from in May 2018.

Trump says the U.S. will place new sanctions on Iran “until Iran changes its behavior.”

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.