Defying a direct appeal from President Trump, the Republican-led Senate is gearing up to take a major step aimed at reining in Mr. Trump’sauthority to inaugurate military action against Iran following a period of soaring tensions between Washington and Tehran.
In a procedural vote Wednesday, lawmakers voted 51-45 to advance a war powers resolution that requires the executive branch to end any military hostilities in Iran within 30 days and obtain express congressional approval to carry out further action. The Senate is expected to hold a formal vote on the bill Thursday.
Several Republicans broke with the president to support the resolution, although the total is far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override an expected Trump veto.
Introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, the legislation marked a significant rebuke of the White House’s recent actions in Iran. Mr. Kaine made several modifications to the original bill to bring in GOP support, including removing language that directly referenced the president.
In a joint press conference Wednesday with Mr. Kaine, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine said the Iranresolution was not as a personal shot at Mr. Trump but a defense of congressional prerogatives.
“This really is about the proper allocation of power between the three branches of government,” Mr. Lee argued. “Moving forward any action that we take involving Iran … needs to be authorized by Congress if it’s not authorized somewhere else or as part of the president’s inherent power to respond to an actual or imminent attack on the United States. This should not be controversial.”
Mr. Trump, however, made clear his unhappiness with the measure in a series of tweets even as the Senate was debating Wednesday.
“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,” he tweeted.
He argued that if his “hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.” Senate Democrats “are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!”
U.S.-Iranian relations have been especially tense since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran’s economy and its top leaders. But the clash went to a new level when Mr. Trump ordered a deadly drone strike targeting a top Iranian general late last year and Iran responded with missile attacks on U.S. troops based in neighboring Iraq.
Most Republicans backed Mr. Trump in Wednesday’s debate, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denouncing the Kaine resolution as “blunt and clumsy.”
The Kentucky Republican, who announced he would reject any further progression of a war powers resolution after the House approved a similar nonbinding measure last month, said “this self-flagellation and self-limitation would be tantamount to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”
In the end, eight GOP senators voted in favor of advancing the bill, including Mr. Lee, Ms. Collins, and Sens. Todd Young of Indiana; Rand Paul of Kentucky; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
Once approved, Mr. Kaine’s resolution will mark the second time such a bill designed to limit the president’s war-fighting powers has reached Mr. Trump’s desk.
Last year, the House and Senate approved a resolution to block any U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war. Mr. Trump ultimately vetoed the measure.
© Copyright (c) 2020 News World Communications, Inc.