Rachel Oswald

House votes to curb Trump's power to attack Iran
11 Republicans join Democrats to limit presidential actions

The House on Thursday passed, on bipartisan votes, two related measures designed to prevent President Donald Trump from launching military attacks on Iran.

The two votes were the latest sign of lawmakers’ growing willingness in recent years to exercise their war powers muscles after decades of disuse.

Ahead of House Iran war votes, Trump sends mixed messages
Despite veto threats, president urges lawmakers to vote their conscience on 2002 AUMF repeal

As the House prepares to vote Thursday on two measures that would constrain President Donald Trump’s ability to launch attacks on Iran, the White House sent out mixed messages about how it wants lawmakers to vote.

The House will debate and vote on two measures that take different approaches to limiting the Trump administration’s military options when it comes to Tehran, which remains outraged at the United States for the early January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed Iran’s most powerful general, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Trump's Mideast peace plan puts pro-Israel Democrats in a bind
Possible lasting break between the Israeli government and Democratic lawmakers

The White House’s release of its long-awaited Middle East plan is notable less for its specifics, which have already been rejected by the Palestinians, than for the bind it puts on traditional pro-Israel stalwarts in the Democratic Party, particularly if Israel decides to formally annex Palestinian land as the administration plan would immediately allow.

The administration’s 180-page “Peace to Prosperity” proposal released Tuesday, also called “The Vision,” is the three-year brainchild of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. “The Vision provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River,” states a White House outline of the proposal.

Senate could vote to curb Trump war powers, but timing unclear
Bipartisan version of resolution would require immediate cessation of attacks on Iran

Sen. Tim Kaine has lined up the votes to adopt a resolution to restrict President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran, though a vote on the matter this week would fall short absent a procedural agreement with Republican leadership.

The Virginia Democrat announced Tuesday he received support from at least four GOP senators for using the 1973 War Powers Act to adopt a binding resolution ordering the Trump administration to immediately end all unauthorized military hostilities against Iran and its government. Those senators are Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Todd Young of Indiana.

Authorizing conflict: AUMF and Congress explained

The United States hasn’t officially declared war since World War II. Instead, conflicts such as the Vietnam War, The Gulf War and the War on Terror are initiated courtesy of an Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF

Watch as CQ Roll Call’s Foreign Policy reporter Rachel Oswald explains AUMF, how it’s used and the implications behind President Donald Trump’s recent military actions against Iran.

Freshman national security Democrats seize political moment

In the hours after the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and with concern rapidly mounting about the potential for a direct military confrontation with Iran, several high-profile House liberals announced plans to constrain President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war.

But it was a lesser-known and more moderate freshman — Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst who did three tours in Iraq focusing on the country’s Iranian-backed Shiite militias — whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi ultimately tapped as the face of Democrats’ arguments for putting guardrails on Trump’s Iran strategy.

House approves resolution aimed at trimming Trump’s power on Iran
Vote falls largely along partisan lines

The House on Thursday approved on a sharply partisan vote, 224-194, a concurrent resolution seeking to curb the power of President Donald Trump to attack Iran.

But the parliamentary nature of the measure would not actually bind the White House’s hands even if the Senate were to go along with the resolution because it would never go to Trump's desk for signature.

Congress readies for Iran briefings and vote in House on war powers
Senate and House to get all-hands briefing on Soleimani threat

The specter of military escalation with Iran will take center stage for lawmakers this week as they return to Capitol Hill for briefings on the Trump administration’s justification for last week’s targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the House holds a vote on a resolution that would restrict the president’s ability to go to war with Tehran.

Aftereffects from the drone strike on Soleimani, who as the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force was seen as Iran’s second-most powerful official, continued to build over the weekend. Those repercussions include a vote by the Iraqi parliament to order the expulsion of U.S. military forces, although no deadline was specified; warnings from senior Iranian figures and proxies like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that retaliation could take the form of attacks on U.S. military sites; and Tehran’s announcement that it would cease abiding by the 2015 multinational nuclear deal not to enrich uranium.

Diplomats testifying in impeachment inspire pride, worry
Positive reviews come with increased fears over safety and political retaliation

Few other parts of the U.S. government under the Trump administration feel as undermined and besieged as the State Department.

The department’s funding has repeatedly come under attack in White House budget requests; the expertise of its diplomats and policy specialists has routinely been ignored in favor of the opinions of Trump loyalists with little foreign affairs experience.

Former ambassador to Ukraine says Foreign Service being ‘degraded’ under Trump
Yovanovitch said her ouster caused real harm, morale decline at State Department

Top State Department leadership came under searing attack Friday by one of their own senior ambassadors in remarkably stark language during the second day of public hearings in the House’s impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. 

Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before the House Intelligence Committee that nearly three years into the Trump administration, the State Department has been badly harmed by attacks on its diplomats from the president and his allies.

Impeachment strains longstanding bipartisan support for Ukraine
Consensus built on keeping Ukraine inside the Western European camp

The bipartisan backing for Ukraine in its long face-off with Russia has been a hallmark of Congress’ role in foreign policymaking for decades. Congress — both parties — has generally been willing to confront Moscow more forcefully over its treatment of Ukraine than the Trump, Obama or George W. Bush White Houses.

But with U.S. policy toward Ukraine the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward Kyiv out in the open, and Republicans not wanting to break with their GOP president publicly over Ukraine policy, concern is rising that this longstanding bipartisan consensus to keep Ukraine inside the Western European camp could erode.

‘That’s not believable’ — Cardin has heated exchange with administration official

James Jeffrey, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Syria and countering the Islamic State, called President Trump’s decision two weeks ago to abruptly remove U.S. troops in northern Syria a “tragic situation,” but added that after a five-day ceasefire, “we’re in a better place now than we were a week ago.”

Turkey sanctions bills likely to move despite ceasefire
Shaky ceasefire agreement halting Syrian Kurd attacks appears to not appease lawmakers, who may still vote to impose sanctions

A shaky ceasefire agreement with Turkey to halt its attacks on the Syrian Kurds does not appear to have done much to slake lawmakers’ appetite for imposing sanctions on the longtime NATO ally.

President Donald Trump was quick to declare victory Thursday after Ankara agreed to a five-day ceasefire in its attacks on Kurds in northern Syria. Kurdish fighters are supposed to use that window, which the Turkish government is describing not as a ceasefire but as a “pause,” to withdraw to roughly 20 miles south of the Turkish border.

Pence says Turkey has agreed to cease fire in northern Syria
Trump has faced a bipartisan backlash over pulling U.S. troops from buffer zone along Turkey-Syria border

Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday that a ceasefire agreement had been reached with the Turkish government that would allow for a cessation of fighting in northeast Syria where Syrian Kurds have been getting hammered for the last week.

Specifics of the ceasefire, which was to last for 120 hours, were initially scarce but Pence at a news conference in Ankara alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was already being implemented.

State Department official says Iran has been transferring missiles to terrorists
Administration says transfers justify abandoning the Iran nuclear deal

The State Department on Wednesday revealed that Iran has been transferring ballistic missiles to regional partners that the United States views as terrorists.

The revelation by the special envoy for Iran policy, Brian Hook, came at the start of a contentious Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Hook argued that evidence of Iran’s transfer of ballistic missile technology to regional extremist groups justified the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.

House passes trio of measures supporting Hong Kong protesters
All three measures were advanced to the floor unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in late September

The House passed on Tuesday legislation aimed at helping Hong Kong democracy activists in their fight to preserve political freedoms from encroachment by mainland China.

The most important of the three bills, which passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules, would threaten Hong Kong’s continued special trade status with the United States if the State Department is unable to certify that the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing. The status gives Hong Kong easier rules on foreign investment, customs and export regulations.

Sanctions on Turkey go front and center as Congress returns
Trump’s proposed sanctions appear to buy some breathing room with GOP critics

Bipartisan, bicameral sanctions against Turkey over its incursion into northern Syria against longtime Kurdish allies of the U.S. are high on the agenda as lawmakers return from recess Tuesday, even as President Donald Trump appeared to try to undercut the emerging unity on the issue.

While the sanctions and trade actions declared by the president Monday fall short of what lawmakers had been proposing, they do appear, at least initially, to have bought him breathing room with some top Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has been leading the sanctions charge in the Senate.

Bush-era torture memos cast doubt on human rights nominee’s approval
Sen. Robert Menendez said the administration had not been transparent on two separate matters relating to Billingslea’s background

The future of a Trump nominee to serve as the executive branch’s highest-ranking human rights official is in doubt following a difficult Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing and lawmakers’ frustration over how the nomination has been muscled through.

With last week’s confirmation hearing of Marshall Billingslea to be the next undersecretary of State for civilian security, democracy and human rights, Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, broke with a decades-long tradition of agreement between the Republican and Democratic panel leaders when scheduling committee hearings and markups.

Issa hearing delayed after dispute over background investigation
Democratic Sen. Menendez says White House has ignored its requests for additional information

A confirmation hearing for former Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, who was nominated to a key trade post, was interrupted and then delayed on Thursday as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee fought over information in Issa’s FBI file that could be potentially disqualifying.

Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, had decided to hold confirmation hearings for two nominees whose FBI background files contained classified and potentially disqualifying information that the White House declined to release to anyone other than Risch and ranking Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

White House mulls slimmed-down foreign aid cuts package
Pompeo said to urge Trump not to use budgetary end-run

A Trump administration plan to do an end-run around Congress and cancel more than $4 billion in previously approved foreign aid funds could be scaled back, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged President Donald Trump to back away from the idea in a phone call Monday night.

Details of the conversation between Pompeo, Trump and acting White House budget chief Russell Vought were shared by several individuals close to the foreign aid sector. A senior administration official declined to comment, other than to say it was a private conversation.