U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore, voted in favor of the War Powers Resolution, a Vietnam-era provision created to limit presidential ability to wage war.
Discussion around the War Powers Resolution has heightened after the United States killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, which was followed by Iran firing missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq and using Russian surface-to-air missiles to take down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people aboard headed for Kiev.
Scanlon discussed her stance.
"There is no doubt that Qassem Soleimani was an evil man who was a danger to American lives and interests," the congresswoman said. "However, the decision to order his assassination is one that previous administrations, of both parties, avoided, believing that the risks far outweighed the benefits.
"As members of Congress, it is our duty to examine the rationale for engaging our armed forces in war with any country - a duty we must execute with extraordinary care under an administration operating with vacancies in key national security positions," Scanlon added. "I will not vote to commit our sons and daughters to war, or authorize military action that places our diplomats and other Americans in harm's way, in the absence of compelling justification."
Even though former President Richard Nixon vetoed the the War Powers Resolution, it was passed and became law on Nov. 7, 1973. Congress was motivated by a series of military actions, including the Korean and Vietnam wars, directed by sitting presidents without their advisement.
According to the U.S. Library of Congress, the Constitution outlines that exercises of war lie in the hands of both the executive and legislative branches of government. The president is the commander-in-chief and Congress makes the declarations of war and finances them.
The law requires that presidents notify Congress within 48 hours of military forces being sent "into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." From there, the president has 60 days to complete the action, or Congress must issue a declaration of war for the military matter to continue.
After its passage, President Gerald Ford gave notification to Congress when he ordered military forces to retake the Mayaguez, an American merchant vessel that had been seized by Cambodia. According to the Library of Congress, no act of Congress was needed as the action was finished within 60 days.
President Ronald Reagan was the first president to use the War Powers Resolution process when he notified Congress in the early 1980s with regards to his sending Marines to Lebanon. The 60-day timeline wasn't activated as he didn't specifically cite Section (4)(a). In October 1983, after compromising with the president, Congress passed a law authorizing troops to be stationed in Lebanon for 18 months. When Reagan signed the resolution, that became the first time the War Powers Resolution was used.
In the early 1990s, President George H.W. Bush first deemed he did not need the authority of Congress to remove Iraq from Kuwait. He did, however, ask for congressional support, which he received and ultimately ended with Operation Desert Storm.
In the 1990s, President William Clinton directed air strikes and troops in Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and gave notification to Congress without citing the section triggering the 60-day limit. A group of U.S. representatives filed a suit, that eventually ended with the courts siding with the president.
Following Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed a law to permit President George W. Bush to use any force necessary against those who committed or aided the efforts that resulted in the terrorist attacks that day.
Proponents of the resolution say it's a needed check to balance out the executive branch and without it, the commander-in-chief has too much unilateral power regarding troops. Opponents say it restricts the president's power with regards to emergencies.
The congressional vote Thursday requires the president to cease any military actions against Iran until authorized by Congress or in response to an imminent threat.