House passes War Powers Resolution in rebuke of Trump's actions against Iran

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted in favor of a War Powers Resolution meant to limit President Trump’s military action toward Iran following an escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The resolution passed, 224-194, mostly along party lines, but both parties had some defectors: eight Democrats voted against the measure and three Republicans voted in favor of it. Independent Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party last year, also voted in favor of the measure.

"We deserve the respect from the administration and that Congress deserves under the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor. “The Constitution of the United States calls that there be cooperation when initiating hostilities.”

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The resolution is non-binding but is meant to reassert congressional authority and rebuke Trump’s decision to take out Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike last Friday while he traveled to an airport in Baghdad, Iraq. Trump did not consult with congressional leaders ahead of the attack that killed the Iranian military leader and afterward sent Congress a notification explaining the rationale but kept it classified.

The resolution “requires the president to consult with Congress 'in every possible instance' before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities."

The measure also aimed to handcuff Trump when it comes to future strikes.

The resolution says that “Congress has not authorized the president to use military force against Iran.” The measure “directs the president to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless there is a specific blessing by Congress.

“The president has the right and duty to protect this nation and our citizens from terrorism. That’s what he continues to do, and the world is safer for it,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley responded. “This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies, and attempts to hinder the president’s authority to protect America and our interests in the region from the continued threats. These Congressional actions are completely misguided. In fact, this ridiculous resolution is just another political move because, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, it’s non-binding and lacks the force of law.”

Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who is a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official who served in Iraq, sponsored the measure.

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The resolution was widely panned by Republican lawmakers in the House, who called the measure a political move against the president and accused Democrats of empowering Iran by condemning the White House’s airstrike.

“For the party that claims they care about the Constitution, Democrats might want to brush up on their facts,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “If they did, they’d realize their actions today are shameful and are embarrassing even by the low standards they set in their impeachment inquiry.”

One notable Republican congressman who didn't agree with his fellow GOP members was Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who argued that Congres ought to have the right to send troops into combat.

"If our service members have the courage to fight and die in these wars, Congress ought to have the courage to vote for or against them," Gaetz said. "I’m voting for this resolution."

A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., faces an uphill fight in the GOP-run Senate.

Kaine's efforts received a boost Thursday as Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an ex-Marine, said he might support the war powers measure. Two other Republican senators had said Wednesday that they would back the Kaine plan.

“We are members of a separate and distinct branch of government. It is our duty not to take anyone’s word for things as we are dealing with matters of life and death,” Young said, adding that he wished Trump administration officials had provided more intelligence information during a briefing Wednesday on the U.S.-ordered drone strike that killed Soleimani.

The first War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 in an effort to prevent presidents from using the military without congressional approval. Since then, questions of presidential compliance have become common, with controversy stemming from former President Bill Clinton’s actions in Kosovo and former President Barack Obama’s operations in Libya.

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Congress has allowed its war powers role to erode since the passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 to fight terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, and passage of another AUMF for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.

Trump has slammed the War Powers Resolution as “unconstitutional” and called on it to be repealed.

The House vote on Thursday came a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified.

Vice President Pence said Thursday that Soleimani “was traveling the region making plans to bring an attack against American personnel and American forces.” He said it was not possible to share full details of the intelligence with lawmakers.

“When it comes to intelligence, we have to protect sources and methods, there's only a certain amount we can share with every member of Congress,” Pence said on ABC's "Good Morning America," adding: "But those of us who have seen all the evidence know that there was a compelling case of imminent threat against American personnel.”

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Trump said Thursday that he "had calls from numerous senators and numerous congressmen and -women saying it was the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.''

Referring to criticism by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Trump said: "They want information that honestly I think is very hard to get... It really had to do with sources and information that we had that really should remain at a very high level.''

Lee, a conservative from Utah, said the briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials was “probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue," in the nine years he has served in the Senate.

The vote also came after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani killing by launching missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American and Coalition troops. No casualties were reported.

Fox News’ Matt Leach, Alex Pappas, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.