Senate Votes to Curb Trump’s War Powers Against Iran

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The Senate passed a bipartisan war powers resolution on Thursday aimed to limit President Trump’s ability to use military action against Iran without Congressional approval.

The resolution, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), passed 55-45. Eight Senate Republicans voted with all 47 Democrats for the measure that “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”

Kaine introduced the resolution last month hours after President Trump authorized a drone strike and killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It would still allow the president to order strikes in cases of self-defense against an imminent attack.

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“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. “After years of Congress avoiding its constitutional duty on matters of war, I’m grateful that a bipartisan majority of Senators affirmed that the President cannot send our troops into conflict without authorization.”

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The eight Republicans that voted in support of the resolution includes: Sens. Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Susan Collins (ME), Lamar Alexander (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Bill Cassidy (LA), Jerry Moran (KS), and Todd Young (IN).

“We’ve been lied to by the Pentagon for years regarding a war that has gone on for two decades,” Lee told reporters after the vote. “We don’t want additional ambiguities. We don’t want any more war.”

Collins said that Congress can no longer be sidelined in these “important decisions.” 

“It is long overdue,” Collins said. “It reasserts Congress’ constitutional role and recognizes that the Framers did not vest in the presidency the authority to declare war unilaterally.”

All three Senate Democrats who are running for president returned from the campaign trail to vote for the measure.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, warned the vote would embolden Iran.

“It will signal to the Iranians there is no price for aggression, and it will undermine deterrence and will leave our military and diplomats vulnerable,” Inhofe said.

Other detractors of the measure said such vote would send a problematic message that neither the President and Congress are on the same page.

“It sends a message to adversaries that the president somehow doesn’t have support or the power to act defensively if we come under attack,” Sen. Marco Rubio(R-FL) said. “They are not going to read the language. They are just going to view it as a rejection of the president acting forcefully to either prevent an attack against Americans or respond to one.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his party to reject this resolution earlier this week. On the Senate floor, he called the measure “deeply flawed,” and “too blunt and too broad.”

“This war powers resolution cuts short that interplay between the branches. It short-circuits the thoughtful deliberation and debate,” McConnell said. “It’s a dangerously overbroad resolution that should not pass Congress and is certain to be vetoed if it does.”

The House will vote on the resolution when it returns from a weeklong recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday. Last month, the House voted 224 to 194 in favor of a nonbonding resolution, similar to the Senate measure to restrain Trump’s action in Iran. Only three House Republicans supported the measure.

While the House is likely to pass the Senate bill, Trump is expected to veto the measure, warning on Twitter on Wednesday that such resolution would “send a very bad signal,” and “this is not the time to show weakness.”

“It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani,” he added. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal.”