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Meet the lawmakers who bucked their parties on vote to limit Trump’s war powers

Eight Democrats opposed the resolution, while three Republicans supported it

New York Democratic Rep. Max Rose said he refused “to play politics with questions of war and peace” before opposing a war powers resolution Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
New York Democratic Rep. Max Rose said he refused “to play politics with questions of war and peace” before opposing a war powers resolution Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated Jan. 10 11:30 a.m. | The House voted largely along party lines Thursday to adopt a resolution directing President Donald Trump to not use military force against Iran without congressional approval unless it was necessary to defend Americans.

But 11 lawmakers, mostly Democrats, bucked their parties on the vote. Most of those Democrats face competitive reelections this year.

Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Shia militia expert facing reelection in a swing district, sponsored the resolution amid a tense faceoff between Iran and the United States. Iran responded to the U.S. killing of its military commander Qassem Soleimani by firing missile strikes on two American bases in Iraq. While Trump announced Wednesday that the situation was deescalating, the House moved to reassert its power to declare war. Democrats largely supported the resolution, while Republicans mostly opposed it.

Eight Democrats broke with their party and voted against the resolution. Seven of them represent districts Trump won in 2016. Three Republicans voted for it, as did Michigan independent Justin Amash, a former Republican.

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The resolution was similar to an amendment from California Democrat Ro Khanna that was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act when it passed the House in July. That language was stripped from the bill when it was reconciled with the Senate version. Khanna’s amendment barred federal funds from being used for the use of military force against Iran without congressional approval. Seven Democrats voted against Khanna’s amendment, while 27 Republicans supported it, so some defections were expected Thursday night.

Here’s who bucked their parties on the vote.

Eight Democratic ‘nay’ votes

New York Rep. Anthony BrindisiBrindisi told reporters after the vote that he felt the U.S. was justified in killing Soleimani. “Going forward, I don’t want to restrict this administration or, frankly, any administration’s ability to respond to threats from Iran,” he said. He called for “a broader conversation about use of force in the Middle East.” Brindisi’s district in upstate New York backed Trump by 15 points in 2016, while the vulnerable congressman won his first term in 2018 by 2 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates his race a Toss-up.

South Carolina Rep. Joe CunninghamThe freshman lawmaker was the the only Democrat to vote against the rule that set conditions for debating the resolution. He said in a statement explaining his vote that he supports Trump’s decision to deescalate tensions and “so long as this posture continues, we should avoid sending the message that Congress is not behind the commander-in-chief as he tries to prevent further escalation with Iran.” Cunningham is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in 2020, having flipped a longtime GOP district that Trump carried by 11 points. He won the Charleston-based seat by less than 2 points in 2018 after Republican incumbent Mark Sanford had lost in that year’s GOP primary. Inside Elections rates Cunningham’s race a Toss-up.

New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer: Elected in 2016, Gottheimer flipped a GOP district that Trump narrowly carried the same year. He voted against the Khanna amendment and has been a moderate in the caucus, often siding with business interests. A former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and Microsoft executive, he represents affluent parts of northern New Jersey, including many suburbs of New York City. The sophomore has voted with his party 88 percent of the time compared to 98 percent for the average House Democrat, according to CQ Vote Watch. He is also an aggressive fundraiser and had nearly $6.4 million in his reelection fund on Sept. 30. Inside Elections rates his race Solid Democratic.

Oklahoma Rep. Kendra HornHorn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said after Soleimani’s killing, “Though we do not mourn his loss, we must ensure that the United States does not recklessly engage with Iran.” She topped CQ Roll Call’s most recent list of the most vulnerable House members after a surprise win by 1 point in 2018. Trump carried her seat by 14 points. Inside Elections rates her reelection a Toss-up.

Virginia Rep. Elaine LuriaThis retired Navy commander flipped a GOP seat in 2018 and is facing a potential rematch against the Republican she unseated, former Rep. Scott Taylor. The military has a big presence in her Norfolk-area district. Luria was one of seven freshman Democrats with national security backgrounds who came out in support of opening an impeachment inquiry in a September op-ed in The Washington Post, and she voted for both articles of impeachment against Trump in December. Luria said in a statement after the vote that the resolution “does not solve the larger problem at hand — which is that we are operating under a nearly two decade-old Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).” Trump carried her district by 3 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates her race Leans Democratic.

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams: McAdams issued a statement Friday saying he supported Trump efforts to use diplomacy and sanctions “and his recent intentions to de-escalate tensions.” He said the War Powers Act of 1973 “already restricts the president’s ability to engage in military conflict without Congressional authorization,” so he did not support the nonbinding resolution Thursday. “At the same time, I firmly oppose any escalation of hostilities in the Middle East without a coherent and defined plan authorizing the use of military force,” he said. As one of 30 Democrats in districts Trump carried, McAdams is among the most vulnerable incumbents. Trump won his Salt Lake City-area district by 7 points in 2016, and McAdams unseated Republican Mia Love by less than a half a point two years later. Inside Elections rates his race a Toss-up.

Florida Rep. Stephanie MurphyMurphy, who co-chairs the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, is a fiscal conservative who worked on military relations and national security at the Defense Department under President George W. Bush. She voted against Khanna’s resolution in July and said in a statement after the vote that she opposed the resolution because the War Powers Act already restricts the president’s authority and she is “not prepared to unduly limit our nation’s ability to respond to different contingencies that may arise.” Murphy tweeted after Soleimani’s killing that the general “met his just end,” and she has been critical of the “Monday morning quarterbacking” since then. Murphy flipped a GOP seat in 2016 by 3 points, while Trump lost the district by 7 points. Murphy cruised to reelection in 2018, and Inside Elections rates her bid for a third term Solid Democratic.

New York Rep. Max RoseRose criticized the measure as a “non-binding resolution that simply restates existing law and sends the message that war is imminent.” An Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in Afghanistan, Rose said, “I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace.” He said Trump does need congressional approval to engage in “protracted hostilities or war with Iran.” Rose won his first term in 2018 by 6 points, but he is considered one of the most vulnerable House members since Trump carried his 11th District, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, by 10 points. GOP leaders have signaled that their preferred candidate to challenge Rose is Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who announced Thursday that she raised $306,000 in the final fundraising quarter of 2019 and ended the year with $723,000 in the bank. Rose has not released his fourth-quarter numbers, but his campaign had nearly $1.7 million on hand as of Sept. 30. Inside Elections rates his race a Toss-up.

Three Republican ‘yea’ votes

Florida Rep. Matt GaetzGaetz is one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress, and he worked to have a direct reference to Soleimani removed from the resolution. But he opposes going to war with Iran without congressional approval, and he told the Rules Committee on Wednesday night that he had been in discussions with Slotkin, and she had drafted “not only sufficient but exemplary definitions of the self-defense metrics that would be applied to any decision to use force.” Gaetz is not expected to face a competitive reelection race. Trump carried his district in the Florida Panhandle by 39 points in 2016, and Gaetz won reelection in 2016 by 34 points. Inside Elections rates his race Solid Republican.

Kentucky Rep. Thomas MassieMassie said in a Thursday floor speech that the vote “isn’t about supporting or opposing President Trump.” Rather, he said, “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority but, more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.” Massie’s 4th District voted for Trump by 36 points in 2016, and Inside Elections rates his reelection Solid Republican. Massie won his 2018 race by 28 points. But this isn’t the first time he has broken with his party to assert congressional authority. In February, he was one of 13 Republicans to vote to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration to fund the construction of a wall along the Mexican border. “If legislators always vote with the president, we have a king,” he tweeted at the time.

Florida Rep. Francis RooneyRooney, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President George W. Bush, is retiring after this term, and he has been critical of his party and Trump in the past. He’d left the door open on impeaching Trump but ultimately voted against both articles of impeachment last month. Speaking to reporters after the vote, Rooney was critical of a “military strategy and a jingoistic strategy,” suggesting that wasn’t the right way for the U.S. to engage with the Iranian people. “Their sorry authoritarian government,” he said, “doesn’t seem to care about them. And that’s what we need to leverage … play for the long ball, and ultimately the Iranian people will have an opportunity to determine the future that they want to have.”

Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.