Senate Votes to Curb Trump’s War Powers Over Soleimani Strike

The Senate voted to restrict President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to approve a measure that would require express congressional approval before a strike.

The resolution, introduced by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, bars U.S. troops from engaging in hostilities against Iran or any part of its government or military, unless Congress declares war or specifically authorizes the use of military force. The president said he will veto the legislation.

“With passage of this resolution, we sent a powerful message that we don’t support starting a war with Iran unless Congress votes that military action is necessary,” Kaine said in a statement after the vote. “If we’re to order our young men and women in uniform to risk their lives and health in war, it should be on the basis of careful deliberation.”

The resolution was adopted on a 55-45 vote and next goes to the Democratic-led House, where it’s expected to be approved. Thursday’s Senate vote fell short of the margin that would be needed to override a Trump veto.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Thursday’s vote a “clear shot across the bow,” to show Trump that “a bipartisan majority of senators don’t want the president waging war without congressional approval.”

Inadequate Briefing

Republican senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul signed on as cosponsors of the measure last month after a briefing by Trump administration officials about the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in early January. The two senators said the explanation from officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, was inadequate and condescending.

Lee opposed one of several attempts by GOP colleagues to sink or weaken the legislation by amending it on the Senate floor. The Utah Republican said the “military-industrial complex” has grown too powerful during the country’s longest period at war. He said measures like the Kaine resolution will clarify that it is Congress’s responsibility to debate and declare war.

“We’ve been lied to by the Pentagon for years regarding a war that’s gone on two decades,” Lee said. “We don’t want additional ambiguities, we don’t want any more war.”

Lee and Paul were joined by fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Todd Young of Indiana, who signed on to the measure after Kaine removed direct references to Trump and the Soleimani strike. Kaine said Wednesday the resolution is “not directed toward President Trump,” but rather to the executive branch in general.

Bipartisan Vote

In addition to GOP Senators Lee, Paul, Collins and Young, four other Republicans voted for the resolution: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The three senators seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren — also left the campaign trail to be in Washington and support the measure.

Kaine has said that the resolution would not prevent the president from taking action to defend U.S. troops in harm’s way or to take defensive action against an imminent threat.

“While the president does and must always have the ability to defend the United States from imminent attack, the executive power to initiate war stops there,” Kaine said. “An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote.”

The president would veto the resolution, according to a Wednesday statement from his administration that called it “untimely and misguided.” Kaine’s resolution was drafted several weeks ago and is no longer relevant since the U.S. is not currently engaged in any hostilities against Iran, the statement said.

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