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Senate Votes to Claw Back War Powers With Help of 8 GOP Senators

The measure seeks to reassert Congress’s constitutional authority over any action against Iran.

TOPSHOT - A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday eight Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to claw back Congress’ mandate on matters of war and peace. In a vote of 55-45, the Senate passed a measure that would require the President to seek congressional authorization before taking military action against Iran.

The measure seeks to reassert Congress’s constitutional oversight of war, which for decades has languished as lawmakers from both parties have ceded those powers to the executive with little fanfare, say the measure’s supporters.

Republican Senators who voted in favor of the measure were: Todd Young, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Rand Paul, Bill Cassidy, Jerry Moran, and Lamar Alexander.

It has been nearly six weeks since Trump authorized an airstrike against Iranian Quds Force commander General Soleimani in Iraq, and a month since the House passed a similar measure.

President Trump is expected to veto the measure.

Trump expressed his displeasure to Republicans Wednesday and said that Democrats were simply seeking to “embarrass the Republican Party.”

“We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness,” Trump tweeted. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal.”

The lead sponsor of the measure, Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, disagreed.

“We don’t send a message of weakness when we stand up for the rule of law in a world that hungers for more rule of law,” said Sen. Kaine.

Referring to the portion of the Constitution that wrests war powers with Congress, Kaine added:

“We need a Congress that will fully inhabit the Article I powers. That’s what our troops and their families deserve.”

“We want to make sure that any military action that needs to be authorized is in fact authorized properly by Congress,” said Republican Sen. Mike Lee. “That doesn’t show weakness; that shows strength.”

The Senate measure is “grounded in a faulty premise” because the United States was not currently engaged in any use of force against Iran, argued the White House.

Republicans in the Senate, who largely supported Trump’s position, echoed the White House’s talking points.

Sen. Lindsey Graham protested that if the measure passed, no president will ever “abide by it,” adding “no president would.”

Several Republicans supporting President Trump introduced amendments to note that the U.S. was not at war with Iran, or to praise Trump’s pressure campaign against Iran, or to carve out an exception for hostile U.S. action against terrorist activities. All such amendments were tabled.

Kaine’s resolution was drafted in early January, when senators on both sides of the aisle were incensed at what they viewed as the less-than-adequate intelligence briefings provided to them after the American airstrikes.

As TAC reported January 8: 

After a closed-door briefing on Iran, Republican Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were livid after a closed-door briefing on Iran Wednesday provided by the Trump administration. The two senators emerged from the briefing saying they will now support a war powers resolution. 

After the nearly hour-long meeting with officials, Lee told reporters that the briefing was “insulting” and “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”

The GOP senators were angered when Trump officials suggested that a debate over war powers would “embolden” Iran.

Lee said he thought such comments were “absolutely insane. I think that’s unacceptable.”

While previous efforts to curb Trump’s war powers were only supported by four Republican senators, an additional four joined with this resolution Thursday. The number still falls well short of the two-thirds tally necessary to overcome a presidential veto however.

about the author

Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is a graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

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