U.S. Rep. John Katko on Thursday voted against a House resolution that would limit President Donald Trump's power to go to war with Iran.
The resolution was introduced by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat who served as a CIA analyst in Iraq and held positions within the defense and state departments. The measure would require Trump to seek an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a joint resolution approved by Congress.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran spiked after Trump approved a drone strike — an operation supported by Katko — that killed Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander. Iran retaliated by launching missile strikes against two military bases in Iraq where U.S. forces are housed. No American soldiers were injured, but there was damage to the base and some equipment.
The attacks led to concern that war with Iran was imminent. Trump said Wednesday the United States is evaluating its options, but will impose additional economic sanctions on Iran.
If Iranian aggression continues and war becomes a reality, House Democrats believe Trump must seek approval from Congress.
"I have watched friends and colleagues get hurt or killed by Iranian rockets, mortars and explosive devices. And (Soleimani) was the architect of some of the worst destabilizing activities in the Middle East," Slotkin said. "But his behavior does not mean that the administration can disregard the Constitution by engaging in a wider war, without consulting first with Congress."
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Katko, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, disagrees with the Democrats' approach and thinks the resolution would do a "disservice" to Trump and future presidents. Under Article II of the Constitution, which outlines the powers of the presidency and executive branch, Katko said Trump has the authority to respond to military threats.
The president, as the commander-in-chief, does have considerable power. But Congress, as outlined in Article I of the Constitution, has the authority to declare war.
Members of Congress were briefed Wednesday about Soleimani's activities. The Trump administration maintains that Soleimani posed an imminent threat and was planning attacks against U.S. interests. The drone strike that killed Soleimani followed an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. An Iran-backed militia was responsible for the attack.
Katko, who participated in a briefing, said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was "emphatic in what he told us." Katko couldn't reveal the specifics of what was discussed.
"There's no question based on that briefing that further attacks were imminent," Katko said.
There have been growing calls in Congress to address the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Some members have criticized the AUMF because it has been used to justify military actions in other countries.
Katko acknowledged there could be a discussion about revamping the AUMF, but he doesn't support the resolution House Democrats introduced to limit Trump's authority to launch a war with Iran.
"I don't think they should infringe on the constitutional Article II powers that are traditionally reserved for the president," he said. "I think that's what this does and that's my concern."
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.