Se­nate passes war pow­ers mea­sure

8 GOP law­mak­ers join Dems to limit pres­i­dent on Iran

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Matthew Daly

WASH­ING­TON — The Se­nate ap­proved a bipartisan mea­sure Thurs­day aimed at lim­it­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s au­thor­ity to launch mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against Iran, with eight Repub­li­cans join­ing Democrats in a post-im­peach­ment bid to con­strain the White House.

The re­buke was the Se­nate’s first ma­jor vote since ac­quit­ting Trump on im­peach­ment charges last week. Trump is ex­pected to veto the war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion if it reaches his desk, warn­ing that if his “hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”

The mea­sure, au­thored by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., says Trump must win ap­proval from Congress be­fore en­gag­ing in fur­ther mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran. Kaine and other sup­port­ers said the res­o­lu­tion, which passed 55-45, was not about Trump or even the pres­i­dency, but in­stead was an important re­asser­tion of con­gres­sional power to de­clare war.

While Trump and other pres­i­dents “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 Se­nate vote con­tin­ues a pat­tern in which Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have shown a will­ing­ness to chal­lenge Trump on for­eign policy, a sharp de­par­ture from their strong sup­port dur­ing im­peach­ment and on do­mes­tic mat­ters. Congress moved to im­pose re­stric­tions on U.S. in­volve­ment with the Saudi-led war in Ye­men last year af­ter U.S.-based jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi was killed in a grue­some mur­der at Saudi Ara­bia’s Con­sulate in Turkey.

The Demo­cratic- con­trolled House passed a sep­a­rate, non­bind­ing war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion on Iran last month. The House could take up the Se­nate res­o­lu­tion later this month, House lead­ers said. Two-thirds votes in the House and GOP-run Se­nate would be needed to override an ex­pected Trump veto of the war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion.

An­swer­ing a claim by some of Trump’s sup­port­ers and Trump him­self that the mea­sure would send a sig­nal of weak­ness to Iran and other po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries, Kaine said the op­po­site was true.

“When we stand up for the rule of law and say ‘This de­ci­sion is fun­da­men­tal, and we have rules that we are going to follow so we can make a good de­ci­sion,’ that’s a mes­sage of strength,” Kaine said. “If we’re to order our young men and women to risk their lives in war, it should be on the ba­sis of care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion by the people’s elected leg­is­la­ture and not on the say-so of any one per­son.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, agreed. Lee sup­ports Trump’s for­eign policy, but said Congress can­not es­cape its con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to act on mat­ters of war and peace.

As the Se­nate de­bate made clear, “there is abun­dant sup­port for the United States tak­ing tough po­si­tions with re­gard to Iran,” Lee said. “And as part of that we want to make sure that any mil­i­tary ac­tion that needs to be au­tho­rized is in fact prop­erly au­tho­rized by Congress. That doesn’t show weak­ness. That shows strength.”

Trump ar­gued on Twit­ter that a vote against Kaine’s pro­posal was important to na­tional se­cu­rity and pointed to the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iran’s top gen­eral, Qassem Soleimani.

“We are do­ing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weak­ness. Amer­i­cans over­whelm­ingly sup­port our at­tack on ter­ror­ist Soleimani,” Trump said. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad sig­nal. The Democrats are only do­ing this as an at­tempt to em­bar­rass the Repub­li­can Party. Don’t let it hap­pen!”

Tehran re­sponded to the U.S. at­tack on Soleimani by launch­ing mis­siles at two mil­i­tary bases in Iraq that house Amer­i­can troops. The at­tack caused trau­matic brain in­juries in dozens of U.S. sol­diers, the Pen­tagon said..

Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike crit­i­cized a brief­ing by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion shortly af­ter the drone strike, say­ing U.S. of­fi­cials of­fered vague in­for­ma­tion about a pos­si­ble at­tack be­ing planned by Iran but no sub­stan­tial de­tails.

Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, a cospon­sor, called the res­o­lu­tion “much needed and long over­due.”

In re­cent decades, “Congress has too of­ten ab­di­cated its con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity on au­tho­riz­ing the sus­tained use of mil­i­tary force,” she said.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., and other Repub­li­cans op­posed the res­o­lu­tion, say­ing it would send the wrong mes­sage to U.S. al­lies.

“Just as we have suc­cess­fully sent Iran this strong sig­nal of our strength and re­solve (by killing that coun­try’s top gen­eral), a blunt and clumsy war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion would tie our own hands,” McCon­nell said.

Be­sides Collins and Lee, Repub­li­cans join­ing Democrats were Sens. La­mar Alexan­der of Ten­nessee, Bill Cas­sidy of Louisiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Todd Young of In­di­ana.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota, Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts re­turned to the Capi­tol from cam­paign­ing and backed the res­o­lu­tion.

ERIN SCHAFF/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talks about the war pow­ers res­o­lu­tion Thurs­day at a news con­fer­ence. Join­ing Schumer are, from left, Sens. Tammy Duck­worth, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Dick Durbin D-Ill.

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