House Votes to Check Trump’s Authority to Strike Iran

WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to curb President Trump’s ability to strike Iran militarily on Friday, adopting a bipartisan provision that would require the president to get Congress’s approval before authorizing military force against Tehran.

The 251-170 vote reflects lawmakers’ growing desire to take back long-ceded authority over matters of war and peace from the executive branch, a reclamation legislators contend has grown increasingly urgent amid escalating tensions with Iran. It also reflected a war weariness on both sides of the aisle after 17 years of conflict in the Middle East; 27 Republicans joined all but seven Democrats to approve it.

Last month, Mr. Trump led the United States to the brink of a retaliatory missile strike before abruptly reversing course minutes before launch. On Thursday, three Iranian boats briefly tried to block passage of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Mr. Trump said last month he believes he does not need congressional approval to strike Iran. The vote Friday amounted to a pointed and bipartisan rebuttal — led by strange ideological bedfellows, Representatives Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California, and Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of Mr. Trump’s most strident Republican allies in Congress.

“When this passes, it will be a clear statement from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that this country is tired of endless wars, that we do not want another war in the Middle East,” Mr. Khanna said before the amendment vote.

Mr. Gaetz issued a challenge to his Republican peers late Thursday night.

“If my war-hungry colleagues, some of whom have already suggested we invade Venezuela and North Korea and probably a few other countries before lunchtime tomorrow; if they’re so certain of their case against Iran,” Mr. Gaetz said, “let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor. Let them make the case to Congress and the American people.”

The amendment, attached to the annual defense policy bill, would not restrict the president’s ability to respond to an attack.

But Mr. Gaetz’s entreaty failed to persuade the majority of his conference, who castigated the notion of limiting the president’s military options against an antagonistic nation. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the measure “a propaganda win for the Iranian regime and the Houthi allies.”

“The administration’s measured response to Iran shoot-down of our U.S. military asset in international airspace shows the president is not looking for a war with Iran,” Mr. McCaul said, referring to the downing of an American drone.

Still, the amendment brought together the oddest of coalitions in Washington, with Concerned Veterans of America, a conservative advocacy group backed by Charles G. and David H. Koch, and VoteVets, the liberal political action committee, joining forces to support the measure. Other lobbying groups, normally foes — including FreedomWorks, the Tea Party advocacy group and Indivisible, a liberal anti-Trump group — jumped into the fray to urge members to support the bill.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, attempted to attach a similar measure to the Senate’s version of the defense policy bill last month, but the amendment failed 50 to 40.

If the larger defense bill clears the House on Friday, it must still be reconciled with a Senate version that is considerably less confrontational with the Trump administration. And it is likely Senate negotiators will try to strip out many of the House’s liberal-leaning provisions, including the Iran amendment and another measure passed by the House on Thursday that would cut off American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

The defense policy bill has traditionally been a bipartisan exercise, but House Republicans have come out strongly against this year’s version, declaring it a partisan document, a charge Democrats on the Armed Services Committee have contested. The House version of the bill allocates $733 billion in military spending while the Senate version allocates $750 billion, meeting the figure the White House requested.

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