Democrats want to tie Trump’s hands on Iran. Here are their options.

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Article Summary
Congress wants to take back its war-making authorities as tensions escalate with Iran.

The Donald Trump administration's aggressive stance against Iran has left Congress scrambling to reclaim some say on foreign policy. But after ceding power to the president for decades, lawmakers face an uphill battle.

Democrats have invoked the Vietnam-era War Powers Act to try to limit US participation in the war against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, but did not have enough support to override the president’s veto.

Lawmakers of both parties are also challenging the administration’s attempt to do an end run around Congress in selling weapons to Iran’s Arab foes.

Finally, several legislators are invoking the proverbial power of the purse to cut off funding for kinetic action against Iran.

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War Powers Act

This 1973 law curtails the White House’s ability to carry out military action without congressional authorization.

Lawsuits

Yemen war

powers resolution

New military

authorization

The War Powers Act requires a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for certain military action. Lawmakers are pushing to repeal the broadly written 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda for fear it may be used against Iran.

 

Status: House Democrats have attached a measure to repeal and re-examine the 2001 AUMF within eight months to the pending State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

 

Know More: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

The Trump administration contends that US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen does not amount to “hostilities” requiring a congressional green light. At least one lawmaker is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to challenge that assertion in court.

 

Status: Democratic leadership has not committed to filing a lawsuit, but has not ruled it out.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Lawmakers have invoked the War Powers Act to direct the president to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

 

Status: Congress passed the bill in April, but the Senate failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. House Democrats have now attached the measure to the annual State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

 

Know More:

Democrats move to defund Yemen war after veto defeat

Arms Export Control Act

This 1976 law empowers lawmakers to block arms sales to foreign countries. Last month the Trump administration invoked a rarely used provision to circumvent a congressional hold on Gulf arms sales by declaring an emergency threat from Iran.

Eliminating the emergency loophole

Resolutions to block

Saudi/UAE arms sales

Seven lawmakers from both parties have introduced 22 separate resolutions blocking $8.1 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite the emergency declaration. House Democrats have likewise vowed legislative action.

 

Status: Lawmakers introduced the resolutions on June 5. Congress is in uncharted waters and the Senate parliamentarian has yet to decide whether the votes can proceed.

 

Who: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and others

 

Know More: Republicans rebuke Trump over Gulf arms sales

At least one Democrat has vowed to try to eliminate the provision that allowed the Trump administration to bypass Congress on Saudi and Emirati arms sales by declaring an Iran emergency.

 

Status: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Al-Monitor he would seek to “essentially eliminate this loophole” in the Senate’s upcoming State Department spending bill.

 

Know More: Sen. Van Hollen challenges Trump’s bypass of Congress on Saudi Arabia, Iran

Power of the purse

To get around a presidential veto of stand-alone legislation, Congress is also looking at massive spending and defense authorization bills to defund military operations and weapons sales.

Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act

Senate spending bills (Iran & Saudi provisions)

Senate defense authorization bill (Iran provision)

House defense authorization bill (Saudi & UAE provisions)

Democratic staffers tell Al-Monitor that they are considering attaching Iran and Saudi-related amendments to Senate spending bills. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sits on the Appropriations Committee, also told Al-Monitor that he intends to attach a Yemen-related provision to the bill.

 

Status: The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up its spending bills.

 

Who: Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Senate Democrats tried and failed to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran in the NDAA.

 

Status: Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, blocked Democrats from inserting this provision in the NDAA. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also failed to attach a similar provision to a Syria sanctions bill.

 

Who: Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

 

Know more: Congress forgoes Iran war restrictions to save anti-Assad bill

Finally, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone bills to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran.

 

Status: The bills have not moved out of the foreign affairs committees in either chamber.

 

Who: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

 

Know more: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

House Democrats are considering using the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block the Saudi and Emirati arms sales and end US involvement in the Yemen war.

 

Status: The House Armed Services Committee marks up the NDAA next week.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

src=""/>

War Powers Act

This 1973 law curtails the White House’s ability to carry out military action without congressional authorization.

New military

authorization

Lawsuits

Yemen war

powers resolution

The War Powers Act requires a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for certain military action. Lawmakers are pushing to repeal the broadly written 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda for fear it may be used against Iran.

 

Status: House Democrats have attached a measure to repeal and re-examine the 2001 AUMF within eight months to the pending State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

 

Know More: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

Lawmakers have invoked the War Powers Act to direct the president to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

 

Status: Congress passed the bill in April, but the Senate failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. House Democrats have now attached the measure to the annual State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

 

Know More: Democrats move to defund Yemen war after veto defeat

The Trump administration contends that US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen does not amount to “hostilities” requiring a congressional green light. At least one lawmaker is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to challenge that assertion in court.

 

Status: Democratic leadership has not committed to filing a lawsuit, but has not ruled it out.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Arms Export Control Act

This 1976 law empowers lawmakers to block arms sales to foreign countries. Last month the Trump administration invoked a rarely used provision to circumvent a congressional hold on Gulf arms sales by declaring an emergency threat from Iran.

Eliminating the emergency loophole

Resolutions to block

Saudi/UAE arms sales

Seven lawmakers from both parties have introduced 22 separate resolutions blocking $8.1 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite the emergency declaration. House Democrats have likewise vowed legislative action.

 

Status: Lawmakers introduced the resolutions on June 5. Congress is in uncharted waters and the Senate parliamentarian has yet to decide whether the votes can proceed.

 

Who: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and others

 

Know More: Republicans rebuke Trump over Gulf arms sales

At least one Democrat has vowed to try to eliminate the provision that allowed the Trump administration to bypass Congress on Saudi and Emirati arms sales by declaring an Iran emergency.

 

Status: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Al-Monitor he would seek to “essentially eliminate this loophole” in the Senate’s upcoming State Department spending bill.

 

Know More: Sen. Van Hollen challenges Trump’s bypass of Congress on Saudi Arabia, Iran

Power of the purse

To get around a presidential veto of stand-alone legislation, Congress is also looking at massive spending and defense authorization bills to defund military operations and weapons sales.

Senate defense authorization bill (Iran provision)

Senate spending bills (Iran & Saudi provisions)

Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act

House defense authorization bill (Saudi & UAE provisions)

Democratic staffers tell Al-Monitor that they are considering attaching Iran and Saudi-related amendments to Senate spending bills. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sits on the Appropriations Committee, also told Al-Monitor that he intends to attach a Yemen-related provision to the bill.

 

Status: The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up its spending bills.

 

Who: Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Senate Democrats tried and failed to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran in the NDAA.

 

Status: Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, blocked Democrats from inserting this provision in the NDAA. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also failed to attach a similar provision to a Syria sanctions bill.

 

Who: Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

 

Know more: Congress forgoes Iran war restrictions to save anti-Assad bill

Finally, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone bills to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran.

 

Status: The bills have not moved out of the foreign affairs committees in either chamber.

 

Who: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

 

Know more: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

House Democrats are considering using the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block the Saudi and Emirati arms sales and end US involvement in the Yemen war.

 

Status: The House Armed Services Committee marks up the NDAA next week.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

src=""/>

War Powers Act

This 1973 law curtails the White House’s ability to carry out military action without congressional authorization.

Yemen war

powers

resolution

New military

authorization

Lawsuits

The War Powers Act requires a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for certain military action. Lawmakers are pushing to repeal the broadly written 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda for fear it may be used against Iran.

 

Status: House Democrats have attached a measure to repeal and re-examine the 2001 AUMF within eight months to the pending State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

 

Know More: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

The Trump administration contends that US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen does not amount to “hostilities” requiring a congressional green light. At least one lawmaker is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to challenge that assertion in court.

 

Status: Democratic leadership has not committed to filing a lawsuit, but has not ruled it out.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Lawmakers have invoked the War Powers Act to direct the president to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

 

Status: Congress passed the bill in April, but the Senate failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. House Democrats have now attached the measure to the annual State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

 

Know More:

Democrats move to defund Yemen war after veto defeat

Arms Export Control Act

This 1976 law empowers lawmakers to block arms sales to foreign countries. Last month the Trump administration invoked a rarely used provision to circumvent a congressional hold on Gulf arms sales by declaring an emergency threat from Iran.

Resolutions to block

Saudi/UAE arms sales

Eliminating the emergency loophole

At least one Democrat has vowed to try to eliminate the provision that allowed the Trump administration to bypass Congress on Saudi and Emirati arms sales by declaring an Iran emergency.

 

Status: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Al-Monitor he would seek to “essentially eliminate this loophole” in the Senate’s upcoming State Department spending bill.

 

Know More: Sen. Van Hollen challenges Trump’s bypass of Congress on Saudi Arabia, Iran

Seven lawmakers from both parties have introduced 22 separate resolutions blocking $8.1 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite the emergency declaration. House Democrats have likewise vowed legislative action.

 

Status: Lawmakers introduced the resolutions on June 5. Congress is in uncharted waters and the Senate parliamentarian has yet to decide whether the votes can proceed.

 

Who: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and others

 

Know More: Republicans rebuke Trump over Gulf arms sales

Power of the purse

To get around a presidential veto of stand-alone legislation, Congress is also looking at massive spending and defense authorization bills to defund military operations and weapons sales.

Senate spending bills (Iran & Saudi provisions)

Democratic staffers tell Al-Monitor that they are considering attaching Iran and Saudi-related amendments to Senate spending bills. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sits on the Appropriations Committee, also told Al-Monitor that he intends to attach a Yemen-related provision to the bill.

 

Status: The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up its spending bills.

 

Who: Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

House defense authorization bill

(Saudi & UAE provisions)

House Democrats are considering using the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block the Saudi and Emirati arms sales and end US involvement in the Yemen war.

 

Status: The House Armed Services Committee marks up the NDAA next week.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Senate defense authorization bill

(Iran provision)

Senate Democrats tried and failed to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran in the NDAA.

 

Status: Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, blocked Democrats from inserting this provision in the NDAA. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also failed to attach a similar provision to a Syria sanctions bill.

 

Who: Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

 

Know more: Congress forgoes Iran war restrictions to save anti-Assad bill

Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act

Finally, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone bills to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran.

 

Status: The bills have not moved out of the foreign affairs committees in either chamber.

 

Who: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

 

Know more: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

src=""/>

War Powers Act

This 1973 law curtails the White House’s ability to carry out military action without congressional authorization.

New military authorization

The War Powers Act requires a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for certain military action. Lawmakers are pushing to repeal the broadly written 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda for fear it may be used against Iran.

 

Status: House Democrats have attached a measure to repeal and re-examine the 2001 AUMF within eight months to the pending State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

 

Know More: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

Yemen war powers

resolution

Lawmakers have invoked the War Powers Act to direct the president to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

 

Status: Congress passed the bill in April, but the Senate failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. House Democrats have now attached the measure to the annual State Department spending bill that cleared the Appropriations Committee in May.

 

Who: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

 

Know More:

Democrats move to defund Yemen war after veto defeat

Lawsuits

The Trump administration contends that US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen does not amount to “hostilities” requiring a congressional green light. At least one lawmaker is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to challenge that assertion in court.

 

Status: Democratic leadership has not committed to filing a lawsuit, but has not ruled it out.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Arms Export Control Act

This 1976 law empowers lawmakers to block arms sales to foreign countries. Last month the Trump administration invoked a rarely used provision to circumvent a congressional hold on Gulf arms sales by declaring an emergency threat from Iran.

Resolutions to block

Saudi/UAE arms sales

Seven lawmakers from both parties have introduced 22 separate resolutions blocking $8.1 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite the emergency declaration. House Democrats have likewise vowed legislative action.

 

Status: Lawmakers introduced the resolutions on June 5. Congress is in uncharted waters and the Senate parliamentarian has yet to decide whether the votes can proceed.

 

Who: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and others

 

Know More: Republicans rebuke Trump over Gulf arms sales

Eliminating the emergency loophole

At least one Democrat has vowed to try to eliminate the provision that allowed the Trump administration to bypass Congress on Saudi and Emirati arms sales by declaring an Iran emergency.

 

Status: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Al-Monitor he would seek to “essentially eliminate this loophole” in the Senate’s upcoming State Department spending bill.

 

Know More: Sen. Van Hollen challenges Trump’s bypass of Congress on Saudi Arabia, Iran

Power of the purse

To get around a presidential veto of stand-alone legislation, Congress is also looking at massive spending and defense authorization bills to defund military operations and weapons sales.

Senate spending bills

(Iran & Saudi provisions)

Democratic staffers tell Al-Monitor that they are considering attaching Iran and Saudi-related amendments to Senate spending bills. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sits on the Appropriations Committee, also told Al-Monitor that he intends to attach a Yemen-related provision to the bill.

 

Status: The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up its spending bills.

 

Who: Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

House defense authorization bill

(Saudi & UAE provisions)

House Democrats are considering using the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block the Saudi and Emirati arms sales and end US involvement in the Yemen war.

 

Status: The House Armed Services Committee marks up the NDAA next week.

 

Who: Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Senate defense authorization bill (Iran provision)

Senate Democrats tried and failed to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran in the NDAA.

 

Status: Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, blocked Democrats from inserting this provision in the NDAA. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also failed to attach a similar provision to a Syria sanctions bill.

 

Who: Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

 

Know more: Congress forgoes Iran war restrictions to save anti-Assad bill

Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act

Finally, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone bills to bar funding for offensive military operations against Iran.

 

Status: The bills have not moved out of the foreign affairs committees in either chamber.

Who: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

 

Know more: Democrats fret over Iran escalation risk

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Found in: Iran-US tensions

Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor's congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email: bharris@al-monitor.com.

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