Bipartisan House Vote Restricts Trump From Starting War With Iran

The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., is seen on March 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — More than two dozen Republicans joined Democrats Friday to rein in President Donald Trump’s power to declare war, voting 220-197 to limit his authority to authorize military strikes against Iran.

Last month, Trump came within minutes of green-lighting an attack on three Iranian targets that could have drawn the U.S. into a full-blown war. The measure passed Friday requires that Congress authorize any future strikes ordered by the White House, and repeals a 2002 law authorizing war in Iraq.

Democrats feared Trump would employ the 2002 authorization to justify military action in the region.

“Congressional authorizations have already been stretched far beyond anything Congress intended. We should act to ensure this authority is not stretched even further,” Democrats said in a letter urging colleagues to support the repeal, released Friday by California Rep. Barbara Lee.

But the majority of Republicans were not on board. Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said the bill took a “radical left turn.”

The legislation includes many Democratic priorities, including a ban on transferring new detainees to Guantanamo Bay and a denial of Trump’s request for $88 million to erect an additional prison on the island base. It also scraps a ban passed by Congress in the early years of the Obama administration that prohibited transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.

“There’s good and bad in this bill,” Thornberry said. “But it’s moving in a direction that does make America less safe.”

The Senate passed a similar bill last month to curtail executive war powers. But differences between the two bills will set off a lengthy negotiation before the two chambers can sign off on a final draft.

Trump has promised to veto the House measure, which cuts $17 billion in military spending he asked for.

Less focused on cost and more concerned with military readiness, Republicans took issue with the legislation’s ban on a new submarine-launched low-yield nuclear missile and a block on the administration repurposing military funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In June, the Ninth Circuit blocked the administration’s attempt to use Department of Defense spending to fulfill the wall promised by Trump early on the campaign trail – with California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra calling it an “illegal money grab.”

Also last month, Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee shot down proposals headed by Thornberry to ramp up spending on military readiness.

But Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who took over for Thornberry as chair of the committee after the last election, said Democrats should back the bill passed Friday.

“It’s a bill that I think Democrats should be happy with,” Smith said. “It’s not everything they want but we need to pass it to say, ‘This is our position,’ to move the ball in the direction we want.”

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