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House to vote on Iran war powers bills sought by progressives

The House will vote later this month on two bills sought by progressives to more aggressively rein in President Trump‘s ability to take military action against Iran without authorization from Congress, Democratic leaders announced Tuesday.
 
Democrats remain frustrated with the Trump administration’s shifting rationale for the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, which in turn led to Iran launching missile attacks on two bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops last week.
 
The votes during the week of Jan. 27 will come after the House already passed a war powers resolution last week largely along party lines that would direct the president to end military hostilities with Iran unless there is an imminent attack or Congress specifically authorizes it. 
 
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the House will take up the two bills following next week’s recess for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, adding that the measures “will reassert Congress’s constitutional authority in questions of war and peace and sending American forces into harm’s way.”
 
The first measure from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) would repeal the 2002 authorization of military force for the Iraq War that has been used as justification for military action against Iran. The other, authored by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), would prohibit the use of federal funds for military action in or against Iran unless authorized by Congress.
 
Both measures previously passed the House last summer as part of the annual defense authorization bill, but were left out of the final version that Trump signed into law in December.

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) had been in talks with Democratic leaders since last week about holding separate votes on the two bills alongside the war powers resolution. CPC leaders also publicly called for votes on the two bills.

 
But while announcing the vote on the war powers resolution last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the time only said that the House “may also soon consider” the bills from Lee and Khanna without committing to a time frame.

During a briefing with reporters earlier Tuesday in the Capitol, Hoyer linked the votes to the Trump administration’s shifting explanations for the strike targeting Soleimani.

Democrats — and a handful of Republicans — were frustrated by a briefing with Trump administration officials on Capitol Hill last week that they said did not offer evidence of an imminent threat from Iran.

“We’re very, very concerned about the briefing, about the contradictions that the president has come out with. He was saying that you know, an imminent danger was not necessary, that they had a lot of information over a lot of time. I think there’s a lot we need to find out here. So far the administration’s contradictions have undermined the credibility of their representations,” Hoyer said.

Trump said in a Fox News interview last week that there was intelligence showing that Iran could have attacked four American embassies. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on the Sunday political talk show circuit days later that he had not seen concrete evidence that the embassies were under threat when Trump authorized targeting Soleimani. 

 
Then on Monday, Trump tweeted that it “doesn’t really matter” if Soleimani was planning imminent attacks because of his “horrible past.”
 
The Senate may also take up the war powers debate in the coming days just as it begins to turn its focus on the upcoming impeachment trial, but the timing is currently in flux.
 
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Tuesday that he had secured majority support for his resolution — similar to the one passed by the House — to restrict Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran after four GOP senators said they would back it.
 
— Mike Lillis contributed

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