The US House of Representatives passed a resolution stopping President Donald Trump from further military action against Iran, rebuking the president after he ordered a drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander and raised fears of war.
The Democrat-controlled House voted 224-194, mostly along party lines, sending the war powers resolution to the Senate. The partisan vote reflected the deep divide in Congress over Trump’s Iran policy and how much of a say lawmakers should have over the use of the military.
Democrats accused Trump of acting recklessly and backed the resolution, while Trump’s fellow Republicans, who rarely vote against the president, opposed it.
“The president has to make the case first – first, not after he launches an ill-advised attack and then comes up with a reason why it was necessary and why it was legal,” said Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Republicans said Democrats endangered the country by trying to pass a resolution they characterised as an empty political gesture, at the start of a US general election year.
“Instead of supporting the president, my Democrat colleagues are dividing Americans at a critical time,” said Representative Mike McCaul, senior Republican on the foreign affairs panel. He said the resolution would “tie the president’s hands.”
The White House criticised the resolution’s passage, calling it “ridiculous” and “just another political move.”
The resolution “attempts to hinder the President’s authority to protect America and our interests in the region from continued threats,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
The fate of the resolution in the Senate is uncertain. Republicans hold 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats, but two Republican senators – Rand Paul and Mike Lee -support the measure.
If passed by the House and Senate, the measure does not need Trump’s signature to go into effect, although Democrats and Republicans disagreed over whether it was binding.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faulted the White House for failing to consult Congress before last week’s drone strike.
“In our view the president – the administration – conducted a provocative, disproportionate attack against Iran, which endangered Americans,” Pelosi told a news conference.
US officials said government believed Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner shortly after Iran fired missiles at two US military bases in Iraq, while Iran was on high alert.
Trump called Pelosi “Crazy” on Twitter, and told reporters he did not need Congress’ approval for military action against Iran. “I don’t have to and you shouldn’t have to, because you have to make split-second decisions sometimes. Sometimes you have to move very quickly,” he said.
The War Powers Act, passed in 1973 as Congress reacted to secret bombings during the Vietnam War, says the House and Senate can pass a resolution to force withdrawal of troops in a foreign conflict without Congress’ consent.
It was not immediately clear what would follow if the resolution passes the Senate. Legal questions about Congress’ power over the president’s role as commander in chief of the US military are unresolved.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, insisted the resolution would have no power over Trump. He called it a “meaningless vote” at his weekly news conference.
Democrats disagreed, noting the US Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. The resolution’s passage would send a strong message Trump must work with lawmakers on national security.