Se­nate in­vokes War Pow­ers Act

Law­mak­ers cite War Pow­ers Act as a check on Trump, but he will prob­a­bly is­sue a veto.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah D. Wire

The bipartisan vote looks to re­strain Pres­i­dent Trump’s use of mil­i­tary force against Iran. A veto is ex­pected.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump’s abil­ity to use mil­i­tary force against Iran would be re­stricted un­less he first re­ceived con­gres­sional ap­proval, ac­cord­ing to a bipartisan res­o­lu­tion ap­proved by the Se­nate on Thurs­day.

But Trump is cer­tain to veto the res­o­lu­tion, and it is un­likely that ei­ther the House or Se­nate would have the two-thirds ma­jor­ity needed to override him, mak­ing Thurs­day’s vote more of a sym­bolic re­buke.

The res­o­lu­tion, spon­sored by Sen. Tim Kaine (DVa.), gained steam in the wake of the U.S. drone strike that killed Ira­nian Gen. Qassem Suleimani in early Jan­uary.

A vote was de­layed by the im­peach­ment trial of Trump, which un­der Se­nate rules had to take prece­dence over any other leg­isla­tive ac­tion. It passed Thurs­day 55 to 45, with eight Repub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats in sup­port.

The res­o­lu­tion as­serts that Congress must be con­sulted for a dec­la­ra­tion of war or an au­tho­riza­tion of the use of mil­i­tary force be­fore the pres­i­dent can en­gage in “hos­til­i­ties” against Iran. It spec­i­fies that the pres­i­dent can still act to de­fend against “im­mi­nent at­tack.”

The vote was the lat­est in the long-stand­ing power strug­gle be­tween the leg­isla­tive branch and the ex­ec­u­tive branch over the use of the mil­i­tary over­seas.

“It’s not re­ally even about the pres­i­dent. It’s about

Congress,” Kaine said. “It’s about Congress fully in­hab­it­ing our Ar­ti­cle 1 role [in the Con­sti­tu­tion] to de­clare war, and tak­ing that de­lib­er­a­tion se­ri­ously.”

Congress has let its power to de­clare war granted by the Con­sti­tu­tion “at­ro­phy” by fail­ing to ex­er­cise it, Sen. Mike Lee (RU­tah) said.

Democrats passed the res­o­lu­tion with the help of Repub­li­cans frus­trated that

De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper, Sec­re­tary of State Michael R. Pom­peo and CIA Di­rec­tor Gina Haspel pro­vided few spe­cific de­tails be­hind closed doors last month about what im­mi­nent threat ex­isted that war­ranted Suleimani’s killing. The at­tack set off sev­eral tense days of con­cerns about how Iran would re­spond.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said the killing, which oc­curred in Iraq, was cov­ered un­der pre­vi­ous au­tho­riza­tions for the use of mil­i­tary force that Congress passed af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks.

Op­po­nents of the res­o­lu­tion warned it would be viewed in­ter­na­tion­ally as Congress ty­ing the pres­i­dent’s hands and open­ing the door for bad ac­tors to strike with im­punity.

“We are play­ing with fire,” Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.) said.

Trump also urged the

Se­nate not to pass the res­o­lu­tion.

“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!” he tweeted.

Kaine re­jected the idea that it sends a neg­a­tive sig­nal, say­ing af­ter com­mit­ting Amer­i­can troops for nearly two decades in Afghanista­n and Iraq to fight ter­ror­ism, “no one can ques­tion whether the United States will pro­tect our­selves and our al­lies. But the choice of when to fight wars, and when to use other avail­able tools, is al­ways a ques­tion of such im­por­tance that the most care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion is war­ranted .... That’s not too much to ask, for us to deliberate care­fully.”

The Se­nate res­o­lu­tion dif­fers from one passed by the House with bipartisan sup­port in the wake of the drone strike. The two can­not be rec­on­ciled, so the House would now need to pass the Se­nate res­o­lu­tion for it to be sent to the pres­i­dent’s desk. House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tues­day that he ex­pects to bring the res­o­lu­tion up for a House vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (DSan Fran­cisco) ini­tially pur­sued a type of non­bind­ing House res­o­lu­tion in early Jan­uary that did not re­quire the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture and would have been largely sym­bolic. The Se­nate ver­sion would be bind­ing, but is sub­ject to pres­i­den­tial veto.

The War Pow­ers Act of 1973 al­lowed Kaine to force a vote on his mea­sure over the ob­jec­tions of Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.), who urged col­leagues to op­pose it in a Se­nate floor speech Wednesday. He called the res­o­lu­tion the “bluntest tool avail­able to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment against the pres­i­dent.”

Kaine’s res­o­lu­tion leaves in place the two broadly writ­ten au­tho­riza­tions for mil­i­tary force passed af­ter Sept. 11 to fight Al Qaeda and Iraq. Those au­tho­riza­tions have been used — crit­ics say mis­used — by mul­ti­ple pres­i­dents to jus­tify nu­mer­ous mil­i­tary ac­tions far out­side of Afghanista­n and Iraq, with­out con­sult­ing Congress.

As­so­ci­ated Press

A VE­HI­CLE BURNS out­side Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tional Air­port last month af­ter the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top gen­eral. Pres­i­dent Trump’s order spurred a Se­nate res­o­lu­tion to re­strict mil­i­tary force over­seas.

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