Lawmakers Buck Parties in Vote on War Powers Resolution

January 10, 2020 Updated: January 10, 2020
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Three Republicans and eight Democrats voted against the bulk of their party on Thursday when the House approved a non-binding war powers resolution.

President Donald Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and two other GOP members, Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Francis Rooney (Fla.) voted for the resolution while eight Democrats—Reps. Ben McAdams (Utah), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe Cunningham (S.C.), Kendra Horn (Okla.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Max Rose (N.Y.), and Elaine Luria (Va.), all known as moderates—voted against it.

Most of the Democrats represent districts that voted for Trump in 2016 and face tough re-election battles this year.

Murphy, who used to work for the Department of Defense as a national security specialist, said she was concerned about Trump’s strategy in the Middle East but said the War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts a president’s power to engage in military action without the consent of Congress.

Iraq Airport Attack
A photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early on Jan. 2, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office via AP)

“There is no question Qassem Soleimani met his just end. While Americans may have different views on the timing and wisdom of the strike on Soleimani, the United States now faces new and evolving threats from Iran and its proxies—and tens of thousands of American servicemembers and other personnel remain in harm’s way. We must be prepared to act swiftly, proportionally, and effectively to keep America and our allies safe,” she said in a statement.

“The War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts the president’s ability to engage our nation in military conflict without authorization from Congress. Based on my experience as a national security specialist in the Pentagon and on classified briefings, I voted against the War Powers Resolution today because I am not prepared to unduly limit our nation’s ability to respond to different contingencies that may arise.”

Murphy said she does believe Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to make sure the Trump administration has a “pragmatic and principled strategy for the broader Middle East.”

Gottheimer said Trump “was justified in eliminating” Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, calling the slain general “a heinous terrorist.”

Gen. Qassem Soleimani
The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani is seen in Tehran on Sept. 14, 2013. (Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Listing reasons he opposed the war powers resolution, the congressman added: “First, I am concerned that this resolution, as it is written, could limit our nation’s ability to confront, thwart, and respond to grave and potentially unforeseen threats in the region. Second, I am concerned that this resolution sends conflicting signals to Iran and to its terrorist proxies. Third, this non-binding resolution simply mirrors existing law.”

“The War Powers Act of 1973 already limits the President’s ability to engage in military conflict without authorization from Congress. Finally, we cannot—and must not—play partisan politics with our national security, or do anything that might undermine our servicemembers,” he said.

McAdams also applauded the strike that took out Soleimani and said he voted against the resolution because he didn’t want to “play politics when the lives of American service members are on the line.”

He also cited the 1973 War Powers Act.

Massie, a libertarian-minded conservative, said Congress should reclaim the powers granted by Article I of the Constitution.

“This vote isn’t about supporting or opposing President Trump. I voted for President Trump. I plan to vote for President Trump again. This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority. But more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives. Congress needs to do more,” he said on the House floor before the vote.

“We need to debate our involvement in Afghanistan and then bring our troops home and debate our involvement in Iraq and then bring our troops home. And we don’t need another war and if we do go to war, it needs to be with the blessing and support of the people and a mission that our soldiers can accomplish and we follow that of the vision of our founding fathers and debate it here on the floor of the House.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced a similar resolution in the Senate last week. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are among the senators who said they support the resolution, which is less likely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber