President Donald Trump urged the Senate Wednesday to reject legislation to curb his ability to attack Iran without congressional approval, saying it was crucial to the country’s security to not limit his war-making power.
“It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” Trump said on Twitter as the Senate debated the measure. “We are doing very well with Iran 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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020
Trump tweeted, “Americans overwhelmingly support our attack” on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed in a Trump-ordered drone strike last month at the Baghdad airport.
“If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day,” he said. “Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!”
….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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020
The Senate could vote on the measure Thursday, with the possibility that five Republican lawmakers will join the minority bloc of 47 Democrats in the 100-member chamber to approve the non-binding resolution. It is almost certain to face a Trump veto, with the supporters of the resolution unlikely to be able to muster a two-thirds vote to override it.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who co-sponsored the war powers resolution, told the Senate, “The resolution before the body today is about Congress reclaiming its rightful role in decisions about war. The resolution is pretty simple. We should not be at war with Iran, unless Congress votes to authorize such a war.”
He added, “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. An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote.”
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, asked, in opposition to the measure, “What message will the Senate send to American service members? Should they doubt whether their own leaders are authorized to defend them?”
He said, “What message should we send to our regional allies and partners? Can they count on continued solidarity from the United States? What would it say to a real great-power, competitors like Russia and China, if we cannot even remain united in the face of a lesser challenger such as Iran? Let’s send the right message with our votes. Let’s defeat this misguided resolution.”
Another Republican lawmaker, Sen. John Thune, said Trump’s killing of Soleimani was justified, calling the war powers resolution “an ill-advised and potentially problematic response to the president’s action.”
The killing of Soleimani heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran last month, reviving a long-running debate over the role Congress should play in overseeing the president’s ability to manage foreign military operations.
In the nearly two decades since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. lawmakers have revisited the issue of congressional approval for conflicts with little success.
But those efforts gained renewed energy following a Jan. 8 intelligence briefing that congressional Democrats and two Republican senators said did not sufficiently inform Congress of the administration’s strategy in the Middle East.
Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee said the briefing on Trump’s engagement with Iran following the drone attack on Soleimani was among the worst they had been given during their time in the U.S. Senate.
Kaine won their support for the resolution along with votes from Republicans Susan Collins, Todd Young and Jerry Moran to attain the majority needed to pass the legislation.
In mid-January, Kaine said, “Our Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. And every member of Congress should have the courage to vote and be held accountable for the question of whether a war with Iran or any war is a good idea. The last thing we need to do is to be tricked into another war in the Middle East.”
Kaine said the resolution does not limit the United States’ ability to respond to an imminent threat, but reaffirms Congress’s constitutional right to weigh the costs of an offensive attack.
Senate action on the war powers resolution follows a number of votes in the House of Representatives aimed at addressing rising tensions with Iran.
In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged Soleimani was a terrible person, while stressing the importance of congressional debate over war powers.
The House voted nearly along party lines on Jan. 9, passing a non-binding resolution similar to Kaine’s legislation by a 224-194 vote.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a House floor speech, “If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation. The resolution we will be voting on today allows us to start that debate as our founders intended.”
Later in the month, a pair of bills limiting Trump’s military authority passed the House with some Republican support. The first bill limits funding for overseas military action if the president has not sought congressional approval for his or her actions.
The second bill repealed the 2020 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) resolution that has been broadly used by presidents of both parties to justify U.S. military actions overseas. Trump, in part, used the 2002 AUMF to justify his strike against Soleimani, also citing an imminent threat to U.S. personnel overseas.
The White House said Trump would veto both of the House-passed measures if they also are approved by the Republican-majority Senate.
Kaine gained Republican support for his resolution after removing references to Trump and his administration’s policy toward Iran.