In a little noticed but potentially monumental development, the House of Representatives voted unanimously for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5515) that says no statute authorizes the use of military force against Iran.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), states, “It is the sense of Congress that the use of the Armed Forces against Iran is not authorized by this Act or any other Act.”
A bipartisan majority of the House adopted the National Defense Authorization Act on May 24, with a vote of 351-66. The bill now moves to the Senate.
If the Senate version ultimately includes the Ellison amendment as well, Congress would send a clear message to Donald Trump that he has no statutory authority to militarily attack Iran.
This becomes particularly significant in light of Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. That withdrawal was followed by a long list of demands by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which could set the stage for a US attack on Iran.
Co-sponsors of the Ellison amendment include Reps. Barbara Lee (D-California), Ro Khanna (D-California), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina).
“The unanimous passage of this bipartisan amendment is a strong and timely counter to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and its increasingly hostile rhetoric,” Ellison said in a press release. “This amendment sends a powerful message that the American people and Members of Congress do not want a war with Iran. Today, Congress acted to reclaim its authority over the use of military force.”
Likewise, Khanna stated, “The War Powers Act and Constitution is clear that our country’s military action must first always be authorized by Congress. A war with Iran would be unconstitutional and costly.”