The message, arguing for Republicans to buck the president, ended: “We WILL be voting in favor of H. Con. Res. 83, and hope you will do the same!”
It was a risky move that surprised the president and showed rare fissures in a Republican Party that Trump has firmly controlled. Trump fiercely complained about Gaetz after aides informed Trump that his office had sent the email backing the resolution, which was pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Trump’s team lobbied heavily against the nonbinding resolution.
“The Trump administration was disappointed in the congressman’s vote and is hopeful that as the president’s foreign policy continues to unfold, he will reconsider his points of view,” Eric Ueland, the head of legislative affairs for the White House, said in an interview.
Gaetz and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gaetz has been called “the Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington,” a judgment that he features prominently on his campaign homepage, along with quotes depicting him as “Trump’s Best Buddy,” “Trump’s Ultimate Defender” and “Rising star of the Trumpian right.”
The 224-to-194 vote, which came a day after the administration’s senior national security officials briefed lawmakers about the strike that killed a top Iranian commander, fell largely along party lines, with three Republicans and a Republican-turned-independent endorsing the resolution. Eight Democrats opposed the measure, which instructs Trump “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war or there is “an imminent armed attack upon the United States.” Gaetz was one of the three Republicans to support the measure.
Other Republicans did not respond well to the overture from Gaetz’s office, according to correspondence reviewed by The Post. A representative for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), known for her hawkish views, responded to the email from Gaetz’s office and said: “As an FYI, my boss, Ms. Cheney, will be standing with and supporting President Trump and voting against this unconstitutional, partisan resolution.”
A staffer for Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) called Gaetz’s email “a dig at the administration’s lawful use of authority to kill the biggest single terrorist of the post-Cold War era.”
“If the position is that a nonbinding resolution is somehow reclaiming Congressional authority then it demonstrates how far we have truly fallen. In the meantime, this entire farce today deserves no conservative consideration,” the legislative director for Perry wrote.
An aide to Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) simply sent all Republican offices Trump’s tweet urging Republicans to vote against the resolution.
A senior White House official said it was “super uncool” and “quite unwise” for Gaetz to push for limits on the president’s authority. This person added that White House officials would not be returning Gaetz’s phone calls, text messages, “smoke signals or his kneelings in the snow.”
Whether Trump will take revenge on the congressman, who has made hundreds of television appearances backing the president and is a frequent visitor at the White House, remains unclear. Trump is often transactional, current and former aides say, and there is probably a path for Gaetz to return to the proverbial tent.
Gaetz, a lawyer whose district in the Florida Panhandle includes thousands of military and ex-military constituents in and around major military bases, is serving his second term in the House.
He spent much of the day Friday defending his vote and praising Trump, saying his vote was about principles and not the president and citing friends of his in the military who were killed overseas.
“This resolution offers no criticism of the president, no critique,” he said on the House floor, adding: “It doesn’t criticize the president’s attack on [Iranian commader Qasem] Soleimani. I take a back seat to no member of this body when it comes to defending the president.”
The email argued that Gaetz supported Trump but that Republicans should consider principles and not just their loyalty to the president.
Describing the resolution, Gaetz’s office used Trumpian punctuation: “It simply seeks to reclaim some of the Article 1 authority that we’ve ceded to the Executive over the past 20 years. (Sad!) It states that only Congress has the authority to declare war, and that Congress has not authorized military force against Iran.”
Fred Barbash and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.