‘Symbolic’ War Powers Push on Iran Passes in House, but Loses Steam from Previous Measure on Yemen

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 09, 2020 in Washington, DC. During the press conference Pelosi declined to say when she would send the House's articles of impeachment to the U.S. …
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A War Powers measure passed the House of Representatives on Thursday in what Democrats pushing it said was an effort to restrain President Donald Trump’s power when it comes to military response to Iranian aggression. The measure passed along mostly partisan lines, and technically it does not have any actual teeth because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) structured it as a “concurrent resolution,” which by definition will never make it to the president’s desk.

The vote passed 224–194, with eight Democrats voting against it and just three Republicans voting for it.

The three Republicans who voted for it were Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Francis Rooney (R-FL), and Thomas Massie (R-KY):

The eight Democrats who voted against it were: Reps. Max Rose (D-NY), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL):

While the handful of Republicans who voted for it said their votes for the measure were based on principle, perhaps the bigger story is how Democrats lost eight of their members and lost many of the Republicans who had previously supported a War Powers resolution that was substantial last year on the U.S.’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Both Massie and Gaetz previously backed the Yemen War Powers fight back in last April’s floor vote, and Rooney was not voting in that vote. But a number of Republicans who voted for the Yemen War Powers resolution–including Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ken Buck (R-CO), Michael Cloud (R-TX), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Alex Mooney (R-WV), Bill Posey (R-FL), Chip Roy (R-TX), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN)–did not vote for the Iran one on Thursday. Most of those members are in the House Freedom Caucus, which forcefully publicly opposed Thursday’s resolution.

What’s more, the effort–for which Pelosi assigned Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) the role of lead on the bill–is in the words of one senior congressional aide “largely symbolic” as it will never reach the president’s desk because it is a concurrent resolution. In other words, the House just wasted several days on passing a resolution that is essentially a press release stating the already-known position of the House.

What’s more, of the several Democrats who voted against this, many issued scathing statements in response. Rose, of Staten Island for instance, called it a purely political ploy that was an affront to men and women in uniform: “I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace and therefore will not support this resolution.”

A similar resolution is likely to come up in the U.S. Senate, potentially next week, offered by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)–the former running mate of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the failed 2016 Democrat presidential nominee. While a couple Republicans like Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) support the Senate version, the Senate version if later adopted by the House actually does have teeth in that it would be sent to the president if both chambers adopted it.

President Trump vetoed the previous measure on Yemen and would probably veto this one too as he has urged Republicans to oppose it and stated via Twitter on Thursday evening that he thinks the mechanism Congress is using here is unconstitutional.

The broader problem that could emerge for those seeking to end endless wars as a result of what has just happened in the House, with the House passing a meaningless resolution with no chance of ever having the force of law, is that a fledgling coalition of activists and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that had come together earlier in the Trump administration on Yemen and then more broadly on Syria and Afghanistan could be imperiled. As evidenced by the swift turn that many of the Republicans who did support the previous Yemen measure against this latest measure, Democrat leaders playing politics with a War Powers measure rather than considering one that may actually have the potential to have the force of law has turned off many Republicans and even some Democrats.

The effort could also imperil efforts to get the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate to actually adopt Kaine’s resolution, as the extremely weak showing of Republicans–a byproduct of Pelosi’s and House Democrats’ handling of the toothless House resolution–may force potential GOP allies in the U.S. Senate to retreat into partisan camps. In other words, Pelosi’s politicizing of the War Powers process–and most of the rest of the House Democrats going along with it–may have significantly weakened Congress even more than it has been in recent decades by cheapening one of the only tools the legislative branch has available to rein in an out-of-control executive branch.

More succinctly, while the full impact of this remains to be seen, the response from Pelosi–in a pure political furor–to President Trump’s strike that eliminated terrorist Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani but has not resulted in a serious escalation despite initial establishment media and leftist Democrat predictions of a broader war may have been a costly overreaction.


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