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Congress backs measure limiting Trump’s authority to launch war on Iran

The President has promised to veto the war powers resolution.

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Members of Congress voted to limit President Donald Trump’s powers to wage war against Iran (Evan Vucci/AP)

Members of Congress voted to limit President Donald Trump’s powers to wage war against Iran (Evan Vucci/AP)

Members of Congress voted to limit President Donald Trump’s powers to wage war against Iran (Evan Vucci/AP)

Congress has approved a bipartisan measure to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran.

The House gave final legislative approval to the measure on Wednesday by 227-186 votes, sending it to Mr Trump.

The President has promised to veto the war powers resolution, warning that if his “hands were tied, Iran would have a field day”.

The resolution, sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine, declares that Mr Trump must win approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran.

Mr Kaine and other supporters say the measure is not about Mr Trump or even the presidency, but instead is an important reassertion of congressional power to declare war.

If President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.Tim Kaine

Six Republicans joined 220 Democrats and independent Justin Amash of Michigan to support the measure.

Six Democrats and 180 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate last month, eight Republicans backed the resolution.

The resolution “sends a clear message that the American people don’t want war with Iran and that Congress has not authorised war with Iran”, said Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While tensions with Iran have abated since a US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general in early January, the resolution clarifying Congress’s power to declare war is still important, Mr Engel said.

“Congress doesn’t have to wait until the President alone decides to use military force again,” Mr Engel told House members during floor debate on Wednesday. “It’s our responsibility to do something, because we know the tensions could flare up again at a moment’s notice. Iran has not been deterred as the administration promised.”

Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the war powers measure “divisive and irresponsible” and based on a false premise.

“It orders the President to terminate hostilities against Iran. The problem is, for the other side, we are not engaged in hostilities in Iran,” Mr McCaul said.

If the US military launches strikes in Iran, “I believe that the President would need to come before this body to ask for a new authorisation” for the use of force, Mr McCaul said. “But that is not what we are facing.”

The House vote marked a rare exertion of authority from Congress, which also moved to impose restrictions on US involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen last year after US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a gruesome murder at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey. Mr Trump promptly vetoed that measure.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a separate, non-binding resolution on Iran in January, a few weeks before the Senate approved Mr Kaine’s resolution. Two-thirds votes in the House and the Senate would be needed to override an expected Trump veto.

Mr Kaine hailed the House vote.

“For years, Congress has abdicated its responsibility on matters of war, but now a bipartisan majority in both the Senate and House has made clear that we shouldn’t be engaged in hostilities with Iran without a vote of Congress,” he said in a statement.

The legislation “doesn’t prevent the President from defending the United States against imminent attack,” but instead “demands that the decision of whether or not we go on offence and send our troops into harm’s way should only be made after serious deliberation and a vote of Congress,” Mr Kaine added.

“If President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.”

In a statement of administration policy, the White House said the resolution should be rejected “because it attempts to hinder the President’s ability to protect” US diplomats, forces, allies and partners, including Israel, from the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies, including militia groups and foreign fighters in Syria.

PA