STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
What power might Congress claim, or reclaim, to limit the president's ability to take further military action against Iran? A war powers resolution sponsored by Democrats was approved yesterday in the House of Representatives. The vote was almost entirely along party lines - almost, although three Republicans did back the proposal, including a very vocal supporter of President Trump, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz.
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MATT GAETZ: I represent more troops than any other member of this body. I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington. And that sergeant died a patriot and a hero. If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress, we ought to have the courage to vote for them or against them.
INSKEEP: This resolution, having passed the House, goes to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is covering this. Good morning.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What does the resolution actually say?
GRISALES: It prompts the president to seek congressional approval for military engagement against Iran. It does allow for the president to take certain military actions in cases of self-defense. But it does prompt the president to seek that congressional approval first in most cases.
INSKEEP: So according to the measure's sponsors, this does not bind the president from acting in self-defense, acting in an urgent way. But if it's possible, in any occasion possible, he's supposed to check with Congress first...
INSKEEP: ...Which Congress claims the right to demand of him because - what? - Congress is supposed to have the power to declare war, right?
GRISALES: That is their argument. They say that power is based in the Constitution, and the president needs to come to Congress before taking such actions.
INSKEEP: OK. What is the president saying about that?
GRISALES: The White House says he doesn't have to. He says he has that power already, according to authorization that was given to the office after the 9/11 attacks. Also the White House said last night that the White House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. armed forces to prevent terrorism activity by Iran and its proxies. And so they don't see this as a move that's going to impact them. But Democrats argue this resolution they passed will have a force of law. And since it falls under the War Powers Act of the 1970s, they say it doesn't require the president's signature. And it has been approved in this one chamber. But for now, it doesn't have much impact other than sending the strong message to the president to seek this congressional approval.
INSKEEP: You have the White House saying this is just a resolution that wouldn't have the force of law. You have Democrats saying it would have the force of law. This surely is a knowable thing, right? Like, there's a law. So the War Powers Act says - what? - that Congress does in fact have the authority to constrain the president in this way.
GRISALES: Exactly. They say they have the authority. Congress says they have the authority to declare war. And it's not just up to the president to declare these actions on a whim.
INSKEEP: There are some Republicans, as we noted, who have said that they are concerned about presidential power and that they support this war powers resolution. So what happens now that it moves to the United States Senate?
GRISALES: Well, the Senate is actually considering their own war powers resolution. This is being sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. And in this Republican-controlled chamber, he will need at least four Republicans to sign on to get a chance for passage of this effort. He says he wants to bring it up as early as Tuesday. He has two Republicans who've already signed on. He says he could have as many as four to seven right now according to talks he's having.
INSKEEP: Claudia, thanks for the update.
GRISALES: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales.
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