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US Congress votes to limit Trump military action against Iran; veto a certainty

The U.S. Capitol building. (Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

In a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump, the U.S. Congress has given final approval to a measure to limit Trump’s authority to order a military attack on Iran — a resolution sure to be vetoed by the U.S. leader.

The House of Representatives on March 11 voted 227-186 on the so-called war powers legislative, with six Republicans joining in with Democrats to pass the resolution that had already cleared the Republican-led Senate.

The measure forbids any military action against Iran without an explicit vote from Congress. Such a law would not prevent Trump or future presidents from taking military action if they determine there is an imminent threat from Iran.

Trump previously promised to veto the war powers resolution, saying that if his “hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.” Supporters of the resolution do not have enough votes to override the veto, meaning it would not take effect.

Senator Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democrat who led the move in Congress, said that “if President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.”

Other Democrats said the resolution was in line with the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to declare war.

The White House had urged that the resolution be rejected “because it attempts to hinder the president’s ability to protect” U.S. 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.

“Iran has a long history of attacking United States and coalition forces both directly and through its proxies,” the White House said.

Texas Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the measure “divisive and irresponsible.”

“The enemies of our country are watching this debate right now. They need to know darn well that if you kill Americans, you will pay the price,” McCaul said to loud cheers from Republicans on the House floor.

Trump has taken a hard line on Iran since taking office in January 2017. Tensions flared after he pulled the United States out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

On the same day as the House vote, a series of missiles hit a military base in Iraq housing Western forces, with media quoting U.S. officials as saying two American and one British personnel were killed and several people were wounded.

The Pentagon has in the past blamed such attacks on Iran-backed militia in Iraq. One attack in December 2019 killed a U.S. contractor and led to a series of retaliatory military moves by the United States and Iran.