The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday that says President Barack Obama cannot deploy combat troops to Iraq without first getting approval and backing from Congress.
Passage of the resolution in a 370-40 vote is an important signal to the White House that the House insists it must be consulted — Obama has told Congress he already has authorization from Congress passed more than a decade ago to send troops to Iraq if needed.
In the last few weeks, the Obama administration has placed several hundred military troops in Iraq to protect U.S. personnel and facilities from an advancing terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Several other advisers are assessing the situation, which could lead to an eventual decision to send more troops back to Iraq.
Earlier this month, Obama’s top military advisers indicated that a return to Iraq for the military could be in the cards, depending on the assessments being carried out.
While Obama has said Congress has already authorized the use of force back in 2002, the resolution from Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) nonetheless calls on Obama to consult with Congress and get its approval before making any such decision to return to war in Iraq.
During floor debate on the resolution, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said a return to fighting would likely divide both parties, but said both sides agree that Congress must be consulted on next steps.
“Where I think all members can agree, is that if the president of the United States ordered U.S. armed forces into sustained combat in Iraq, then he should be coming to Congress to seek an explicit statutory authorization, and backing — the backing of this body,” Royce said.
Some Republicans, like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), disagreed, and said Obama must be free to act as quickly as possible under current authorities without being delayed by Congress. But Kinzinger was one of just 37 Republicans who voted against the measure.
McGovern said the resolution is needed to restore congressional authority over the right to make decisions about when the country goes to war.
“The intent of this resolution is to begin to e-establish Congress’s rightful role under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution when it comes to matters of war and peace,” McGovern said during floor debate. “I believe there is broad, bipartisan and growing concern that over the past several decades, Congress has ceded far too much of its power to the executive branch.”