WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- The U.S. Senate is set to pass a bipartisan resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran weeks after he order the assassination of a top Iranian general.
The War Powers resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), came to the floor Wednesday with a final expected vote Thursday. While the measure is not likely to garner enough support to overturn a likely Trump veto, its expected passage in the Senate nevertheless illustrates a rare congressional effort to rein in the president’s executive authority.
In addition to all 47 Democrats, the measure so far has support from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The Democratic senators running for president are expected to be in Washington for the vote on Thursday, ensuring that the 51-vote threshold for the War Powers resolution will be met.
"The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East. And no matter who our president is, no president is smart enough to, on their own, make that kind of a decision without deliberation,” Kaine said in an interview. "The logic of the idea just gets more and more persuasive the more time that elapses after 9/11.”
Indeed, Congress has abdicated war-making powers to the executive branch in the years after both chambers adopted authorizations for the use of military force against Al-Qaeda in 2001 and against Iraq in 2002. The war powers issue rose to prominence yet again last month in the days following Trump’s Jan. 2 order of an airstrike that martyred General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s Quds Force.
If the War Powers measure is approved by both chambers as expected, it will be the second time such an effort has reached Trump’s desk. Last year, the House and Senate passed a War Powers resolution intended to cut off U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen — the first time both chambers of Congress used the 1973 War Powers Act to constrain presidential authority. Trump vetoed that resolution.
Kaine’s bill would require Trump to cease all hostilities targeting Iran within 30 days unless explicitly approved by Congress. He has modified the original language of the resolution to attract Republican support, including nixing references to Trump. The measure — privileged under the War Powers Act — was on hold during the Senate’s three week impeachment trial, which concluded last week.
Like the Yemen vote, Kaine’s effort will expose longstanding foreign policy divisions within the Republican Party. While the vast majority of Senate Republicans share the party’s historically hawkish positions and supported Trump’s decision to martyr Gen. Soleimani, several GOP senators have teamed up with Democrats in recent years to force votes to rein in presidential war-making powers.
"I think we’ve abdicated our duty to decide whether we should still be at war or not,” said Paul, who has long opposed U.S. interventions in foreign conflicts and has
worked with Democrats over the years on war powers issues. "So the War Powers Act vote for me is just an opportunity to discuss whether or not we should still be at war in Afghanistan or Iraq or any of these places.”
"I’m just ensuring that Congress fulfills our article one responsibilities, that’s all this is about,” added Young.
Democrats and even some Trump allies questioned the justification for the terrorist attack as well as Trump’s authority to carry it out without congressional approval.
Trump himself has expressed disparate views on U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. While he has campaigned on "ending endless wars,” he has steadfastly resisted congressional efforts to curb U.S. military incursions abroad. Paul, who informally advises Trump on foreign policy and national security matters, has tried to veer the president toward a more non-interventionist posture. But, he added, "We’ve just got to get him some better advisers.”
In the face of a likely veto from the president, Democrats are casting the vote as a symbolic rebuke but also a re-affirmation of Congress’ authority.
"The president will veto it, but it sends a shot across his bow that the majority of the Senate and the majority of the House do not want the president waging war without congressional approval,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "And once again, the American people are overwhelmingly on our side.”
Kaine said that even if Trump vetoes the resolution, the measure could nevertheless influence his behavior and decision-making when it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Tuesday that he expects the House to vote on the Senate bill later this month.