Michigan Democrats, GOP divide on Iran military force vote

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — The Michigan delegation voted 8-6 for a resolution drafted by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, to require congressional approval for any further military action against Iran.

The House voted 224-194 to approve the non-binding resolution, delivering a rebuke to President Donald Trump after his decision to launch a drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. But it faces uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin.

Independent Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township voted in favor along with Michigan’s seven House Democrats. Three Republicans from other states voted for Slotkin's resolution, but eight other Democrats opposed it.

Slotkin framed the non-binding resolution as an effort to reinforce Congress' constitutional authority to declare war. 

"If our loved ones are going to be sent in any protracted war, the president owes the public a conversation," the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst said. "The framers of our Constitution rightly believed that the power to declare war belonged in the Congress, because this would ensure that the American people through the legislators they elected could win in on the most significant decision a government can make." 

Michigan's six Republicans voted against the resolution, arguing that Trump took decisive action to protect Americans.

"...We should not play politics with our nation’s security," said GOP U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, adding that a briefing showed there was an imminent threat to U.S. forces in Iraq. "Our service members deserve better and the American people deserve better."

But he acknowledged "we need to have a substantive discussion on war powers and the balance between the president’s authority to address imminent threats and Congress’ constitutional responsibility to declare war."

"The president used his full legal authority to take defensive action and eliminate this brutal terrorist," U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said on the House floor. "The world is safer today because of it.

"In times like these, we need to come together as a country in standing behind our men and women in uniform," Walberg continued. "Whoever occupies the White House, should have the ability to address and direct threats and prevent American bloodshed." 

Democrats sided with Slotkin. 

"The Trump administration’s foreign policy failures have brought us to the brink of war," said U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township. "The administration has provided no evidence to demonstrate what imminent threat made Qassem Soleimani’s assassination and the perilous predictable fallout necessary, but they have demonstrated a shocking dismissiveness as to what’s at stake." 

Levin argued the question about the constitutionality of Trump's actions should be easy for lawmakers to answer. 

"Can we let this president drag us into another war that will cost billions of taxpayer dollars and most importantly, American lives?" he said. "Will we at long last stand up and fulfill our constitution duty to make decisions on war and peace?" 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, chided Republicans for questioning the patriotism of Democrats who supported the resolution. He said the Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to declare war. 

"This comes to a simple question," Kildee said. "And it’s not even a question as to whether or not there was justification to take out Mr. Soleimani, because clearly there was. The question is: Who gives that justification? Who authorizes military action in this country? We can all have our opinion, but we ought to consult the Constitution, which clearly vests that authority in this Congress." 

But U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, countered that Trump's action was "well within his powers as commander in chief." He said in a statement that the resolution would "undermine the ability of the president and U.S. Armed Forces to respond to dynamic and credible threats to our service members in the Middle East."

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said voters in her district support the resolution: "They believe in a full stop to endless violent wars that only result in loss of life and the destruction of lives forever changed.

"For us … it is important to protect our democracy and promote global peace," she said. "We must remove political motive and for-profit schemes from the decision-making process to go to war. If we don’t, it would only lead to more warfare and death. We can’t not allow a process that is tainted, secretive or encompasses lies to make to that choice." 

Amash, a former Republican who left the party on the Fourth of July 2019, argued lawmakers should go a step further and repeal the authorizations of military force that were approved in the early 2000s in the run-up to the Iraq War. 

"Congress must repeal both the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs," he tweeted ahead of Thursday's vote. "They primarily serve as false bases for administrations to commence military engagements that Congress never approved. The American people must be heard in matters of war." 


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing