Your Guide To Defections On The House’s War Powers Resolution

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
January 10, 2020 11:37 a.m.

A war powers resolution, introduced in response to President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to green-light a drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, passed in the House by 224 yes votes to 194 no votes Thursday. 

Both sides suffered defections: three for the Republicans and eight for the Democrats.

The Republicans staked their aisle-crossing on personal conviction.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

What he said: “This vote isn’t about supporting or opposing President Trump,” he said on the floor. “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority, but more, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.” He added that we “certainly” don’t need another war, but that the subject at the very least requires debate.

Political reality: Massie represents a very Republican district (Cook Political Report rates it an R+18) and won his last election by 28 points. He has broken with Trump before over congressional independence, like when he voted against Trump’s emergency declaration to fund the border wall. “If legislators always vote with the President, we have a king,” he said at the time.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) 

What he said: His office did not respond to a request for a statement, but he criticized the “military strategy and a jingoistic strategy” regarding Iran to reporters after the vote. 

Political reality: Rooney has already announced his retirement. A few months ago, he hinted that he was open to voting for Trump’s impeachment, though he ultimately did not. While talking about his retirement, he said that he’s going to “call ‘em like I see ‘em” no matter the wrath of his constituents who demand he stay in lockstep with Trump.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) 

What he said: While he supports the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, he said getting into another “forever war” in the Middle East would be the “wrong decision.” He also pointed out the large number of service members he represents, as his district encompasses sizable military bases. 

Political reality: Gaetz is one of Trump’s most stalwart allies. Though he has been on the receiving end of some Twitter backlash for his vote, he said that he talked to Trump on Thursday and that the President is more “antiwar” than he is. Gaetz has bucked the party on war-related issues before. In July, he joined with the likes of Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) to support an ultimately unsuccessful amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would require congressional approval for military expenditures related to Iran.

The Democrats who crossed the aisle also have something in common: namely, red districts. The entire House is up for reelection in the fall.

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC)

What he said: “And while Qassem Soleimani—the architect of Iran’s deadly campaigns—has been killed, it is important that we acknowledge that his proxies are still at large and continue to pose a serious threat to America and our allies,” he said in a statement. He added that Congress should avoid “sending the message” that it does not support the President, but that the administration has to explain more about the intelligence that prompted the strike. 

Political reality: Cunningham represents the 1st district in South Carolina, which Cook Political Report classifies as an R+10.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) 

What he said: “I voted against today’s resolution because I believe it is dangerous to limit our ability to respond to new and evolving threats from Iran and its proxies,” he said in a tweet. He, like Cunningham, added that Congress must “demand answers” and “conduct rigorous oversight.” 

Political reality: Brindisi represents the 22nd district in New York, which Cook Political Report classifies as an R+6.

Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) 

What he said: “I know all too well the real costs of war and sending troops into harm’s way is the most consequential decision I could make,” he said in a statement, alluding to his own military service. “Unfortunately, today’s War Powers Resolution is a non-binding resolution that simply restates existing law and sends the message that war is imminent. I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace and therefore will not support this resolution.”

Political reality: Rose represents the 11th district in New York, which Cook Political Report classifies as an R+3.

Rep. Josh Gottehimer (D-NJ) 

What he said: “First, I am concerned that this resolution, as it is written, could limit our nation’s ability to confront, thwart, and respond to grave and potentially unforeseen threats in the region,” he said in a statement. “Second, I am concerned that this resolution sends conflicting signals to Iran and to its terrorist proxies. Third, this non-binding resolution simply mirrors existing law. The War Powers Act of 1973 already limits the President’s ability to engage in military conflict without authorization from Congress.”

Political reality: Gottehimer represents the 5th District in New Jersey, rated as an R+3.

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK)

What she said: “Following a direct attack on American bases in Iraq, we must provide our Armed Forces with the ability to respond to threats against the safety and security of Americans,” she said in a statement.

Political reality: Horn is the sole Democrat in the Oklahoma delegation, and represents an R+10 district (the 5th).

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA)

What she said: “Under the Constitution, only Congress has the authority and power to declare war, a responsibility I take seriously,” she said in a statement. “However, this 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). I voted against this resolution because if we must commit our forces to sustained combat operations to protect our nation, Congress has the duty to take on the more urgent task of debating a new AUMF.”

Political reality: Luria represents the second district of Virginia, an R+3. 

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) 

What he said: “The War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts the president’s ability to engage in military conflict without Congressional authorization and protecting America and preserving peace are my priorities,” he said in a statement obtained by TPM. “Therefore, I do not support this non-binding resolution.”

Political reality: McAdams represents the 4th district of Utah, an R+13.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) 

What she said: “The War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts the president’s ability to engage our nation in military conflict without authorization from Congress,” she said in a statement. “Based on my experience as a national security specialist in the Pentagon and on classified briefings, I voted against the War Powers Resolution today because I am not prepared to unduly limit our nation’s ability to respond to different contingencies that may arise.”

Political reality: Murphy is the only Democrat on the list who does not represent a Republican district. Cook Political Report classifies hers as “even” and Hillary Clinton won it in 2016.

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