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House approves measure to restrain Trump’s actions on Iran

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

Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)  speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill on January 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The House is debating restricting President Donald Trump's powers concerning conflict in Iran. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill on January 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The House is debating restricting President Donald Trump's powers concerning conflict in Iran. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Reigniting a debate over who has the power to declare war, the Democratic-controlled House on Thursday approved a resolution asserting that President Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran.

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

The measure will “protect American lives and values” by limiting Trump's military actions, Pelosi said. "The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence.''

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

Pelosi, in announcing the House vote, called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani “provocative and disproportionate."

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced the Democratic measure as little more than “a press release designed to attack President Trump,'' while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called it a ”meaningless vote" on a measure that will never be sent to the president or "limit his constitutional authority to defend the American people.''

The House vote came a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified.