House Votes to Require Congressional Approval for War With Iran

The strange bedfellows behind the Iran amendment, Representatives Matt Gaetz and Ro Khanna. Photo: Getty Images

It’s just one development in a complex three-cornered debate over a possible war with Iran, but it was still interesting: The House voted 251–170 today to include in a defense authorization bill an amendment requiring congressional approval before any attack on Iran (unless it’s strictly speaking in self-defense). Twenty-seven Republicans joined 224 Democrats in voting for the measure. The House later passed the entire defense bill by a narrower and more partisan margin (no Republicans voted for it, and only eight Democrats defected) after Democratic leaders accommodated a number of concerns about the bill from progressives, which included the resolution on Iran.

The vote added another probable item in dispute (including the House bill’s total price tag of a mere $733 billion) to the House-Senate conference on the defense bill, which will not resemble the usual back-scratching bipartisan lovefest usually accompanying enactment of the Pentagon’s lifeline. Half the Senate (including four Republicans) voted for a similar Iran resolution last month, but it didn’t come close to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. As Politico explained, there’s a lot of conflict in the air:

The House and Senate are on a collision course over their versions of the legislation. The Senate bill passed in June with a large bipartisan vote, endorses the higher $750 billion proposed by Trump.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a staunch conservative and Trump ally, is likely to balk at many of House Democrats’ positions, including progressive provisions on Iran, Yemen, limiting nuclear weapons and reversing restrictions on transgender troops.

Trump claims he personally aborted a recent strike on Iran, and often expresses hostility to military interventions alongside belligerent sentiments and a desire to spend limitless money on the military (and parades!). But he insists he should continue to have the power to attack anybody or everybody without congressional approval. Still, the ambivalence in MAGA-land over presidential war-making powers is reflected in the fact that joining arch-progressive Ro Khanna in sponsoring the House’s Iran amendment was Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a very Trumpy politician who apparently thinks Congress should help the president restrain the warmongers in the administration. Here’s what Gaetz had to say today, as reported by the New York Times:

“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.”

We’ll all just have to cross our fingers and hope that the missiles don’t start flying across the Persian Gulf before the House and Senate settle their differences. There are many dimensions to the Trump administration’s policy of brinkmanship toward Tehran, and even Matt Gaetz probably understands there’s only so much bluster the president can deploy before people start dying.

House Votes to Require Congressional Approval for Iran War