The Senate passed a bipartisan resolution to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran in the wake of the airstrike that killed a top commander last month.
Eight Republicans voted in favor of the measure, including Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Susan Collins (Maine), Todd Young (Ind.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). They joined every Democrat in the chamber. It passed 55 to 45.
The resolution was introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) after Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed in January. The administration said the move was necessary because forces loyal to Soleimani were plotting attacks on American assets in the region and noted that those same forces killed an American contractor just days earlier.
The resolution would direct the U.S. military to pull back from conflicts with Iran that don’t have congressional approval.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he opposes the resolution. Meanwhile, President Trump called on GOP members to vote against the bill, saying it would show weakness to Tehran.
Trump said now “is not the time to show weakness” and that if his administration is unable to act on Tehran, “Iran would have a field day.”
In a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday, the president wrote, “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 … 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!”
Kaine, meanwhile, has argued that the measure isn’t necessarily about Trump but about Congress reasserting its Constitutional power to declare war.
“This resolution is about Congress reclaiming its rightful role in decisions about war,” Kaine said Wednesday. “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. This should not be a controversial proposition. It’s clearly stated in the Constitution.”
But Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Thursday the move to kill Soleimani was appropriate and should be commended. Other Republican senators, including Sen. James Risch, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed his remarks.
“The president defended American lives and showed Iran that terrorism and, most importantly, spilling American blood is something that will come at a price,” Inhofe said on the floor. “We’re in the best negotiating position with Iran since 1979,” he added, referring to when the current regime in Tehran came to power.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he supports the bill to stop what he called a “dangerous escalation with Iran.” “It is Congress, not the president, who has the power to take this country into war, and that’s what this vote was about,” he said after voting to approve the measure.
And Sen. Paul, one of Trump’s strongest defenders, argued last month that the resolution is necessary because “the Constitution specifically says the warmaking power resides in Congress.”
The resolution will now have to pass the House. The vote failed to meet the 67-vote threshold needed to overcome Trump’s likely veto. The president vetoed a war powers resolution in 2019.