US Senate votes to limit Trump's ability to wage war against Iran

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, author of the war powers resolution
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, author of the war powers resolution

WASHINGTON • The US Senate has passed legislation to limit President Donald Trump's ability to wage war against Iran, rebuking him weeks after a strike against an Iranian military commander and Teheran's retaliation raised fears of broader regional conflict.

Eight of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans joined Democrats on Thursday to pass the war powers resolution by 55 to 45. The measure would require Mr Trump to remove US troops engaged in hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or passes a specific authorisation for the use of military force.

Mr Trump has promised a veto, and it is expected that there will not be enough support to muster the two-thirds Senate supermajority to override it. Fifty-three of the 100 senators are Republicans, who rarely break ranks with the President.

Senators voted nearly along party lines earlier this month to acquit Mr Trump of impeachment charges, after an investigation and trial that underscored Washington's bitter partisan divides.

Opponents said the resolution's passage sent the wrong message.

"We need to send a message of firmness, and not weakness," said Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, author of the war powers resolution, said the vote showed strength and reflected the importance of Congress weighing in on any decision to deploy troops. Even if the Senate cannot override a veto, he said, the resolution's backers hoped it would influence Mr Trump when it came to future military action.

"The Bill getting to his desk is an indication that we're listening to our constituents, and we're telling him blundering into another war would be a bad idea," Mr Kaine told a news conference after the vote.

The Bill's supporters noted that they were gaining more support for efforts to take back Congress' authority to declare war. The Constitution gives that power to Congress, not the president, but presidents from both parties in recent decades have expanded the White House's authority to pursue military action without legislators' input.

Republican Senator Todd Young, who voted for the resolution, said it should not have been necessary, but Congress had for years "attempted to pass the buck" to the president when decisions about military action had to be made.

"It's time to do our job," Mr Young said in a statement explaining his vote which also praised Mr Trump's leadership.

 

Last June, another resolution that would have required Mr Trump to get Congress' permission before striking Iran failed in the Senate.

The following month, Congress failed to override Mr Trump's veto of legislation opposing his declaration of an emergency to allow the sale of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite lawmakers' objections.

Last month, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a war powers resolution similar to the one that the Senate approved on Thursday, also by less than a two-thirds supermajority.

But there are enough differences between the Senate's version and the House's that it must pass that chamber again before it can be sent to Mr Trump's desk.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'US Senate votes to limit Trump's ability to wage war against Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe