WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved a resolution that would limit the president’s ability to take military action against Iran, but Oswego County's representatives in Congress opposed the measure.
The Democratically-controlled House voted Thursday on a measure that would require President Donald Trump to seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iranians following the assassination of one of the country’s military leaders. The House passed the measure 224-194 with a party-line vote that received support from just three Republicans and opposition from only eight Democrats.
“Congress hereby directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war on that country or enacts legislation authorizing use of force to prevent an attack on the U.S. and its forces, the five-age resolution states.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Qasem Soleimani was a “terrorist with the blood of American soldiers and allies on his hands” and there’s no question he was brought to justice.
Brindisi, however, said he voted against the measure to restrain Trump’s ability to take action because it “is dangerous to limit our ability to respond to new and evolving threats from Iran and its proxies.”
“The American people do not want war with Iran, but we have to be able to protect the safety of the American people and our service members in harm’s way,” said the Utica Democrat, one of the eight Democrats to oppose the measure. “Congress must demand answers, conduct rigorous oversight, and work with the Administration on a comprehensive, pragmatic strategy for the Middle East that promotes peace and regional stability. Above all, the safety of our nation and its service members must be our top priority.”
U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, called the measure an “overly broad resolution” and a “partisan measure” that would limit the nation’s ability to defend against Middle East threats.
“While I believe that a well-considered change to the existing Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to reflect modern challenges is something Congress can and should review, the measure before the House today is non-binding and would infringe upon the President’s ability to act during this time of crisis,” Katko said. “Doing so would be an incredible mistake and would only embolden an already dangerous Iran.”
The resolution’s sponsor, freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, said it is intended to “make clear that if the president wants to take us to war, he must get authorization from Congress.” If loved ones are going to be sent to fight in a protracted war, “the president owes the American people a public conversation about why, and for what ends,” said Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official who served in Iraq.
Members of Congress have a constitutional responsibility to uphold in authorizing use of military force, Slotkin said, adding, “We are owed concrete, specific details on strategy.”
Katko said Iran “remains the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism and has consistently and aggressively provoked and threatened the United States” and its allies.
“Iran continues to pose a global threat, and we must be vigilant as we look to keep the country safe in the wake of recent tensions,” he said, vowing to focus on preventing retaliatory cyber attacks by Iran and its proxies in his role as ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Cybersecurity Subcommittee.
The war powers resolution passed Thursday is non-binding on the president and would not require his signature, according to the Associated Press (AP). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, insisted the measure “has real teeth,” saying “it is a statement of the Congress of the United States.”
The measure would “protect American lives and values” by limiting Trump’s military actions, the house speaker said, adding the Trump Administration must de-escalate and prevent further violence.
The White House called the resolution “ridiculous” and “completely misguided,” according to and AP report, and Trump claimed at a Toledo, Ohio campaign rally that he had no obligation to give lawmakers advance warning. He said Democrats like Pelosi “want us to tell them so they can leak it to their friends in the corrupt media.”
A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., faces an uphill fight in the GOP-run Senate. Kaine’s efforts received a boost Thursday as Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an ex-Marine, said he might support the war powers measure. Two other Republican senators said Wednesday they would back Kaine’s plan.
“We are members of a separate and distinct branch of government. It is our duty not to take anyone’s word for things as we are dealing with matters of life and death,” Young said, adding that he wished Trump administration officials had provided more intelligence information during a briefing Wednesday on a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.