President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon vetoed a resolution that would curb his administration’s war powers after the White House earlier this year authorized an airstrike that killed a top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani.
The Senate first passed the resolution in February before the bill was taken up by the House and was passed. In the Senate, eight Republican senators joined Democrats in passing the measure: Mike Lee (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
It’s not likely that either the House or Senate will have the two-thirds majority to override Trump’s veto. It had stipulated that Trump could only carry out military actions against Iran with the approval of Congress.
In a statement, Trump said that the measure “was a very insulting resolution, introduced by Democrats as part of a strategy to win an election on November 3 by dividing the Republican Party,” adding that GOP members who voted with Democrats “played right into their hands.”
“Contrary to the resolution, the United States is not engaged in the use of force against Iran,” he said. “Four months ago, I took decisive action to eliminate Qassem Soleimani while he was in Iraq. Iran responded by launching a series of missiles at our forces stationed in Iraq. No one was killed by these attacks.”
The war powers bill was passed under the backdrop of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, which fired a barrage of missiles at Iraqi bases that housed American forces, leading to minor injuries. Days after the strikes, Trump imposed more sanctions on Tehran, while Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq have since sporadically launched rockets at other Iraqi airbases in the meantime.
The strike that killed Soleimani, who was in charge of the shadowy Quds Force and was blamed by top U.S. officials for the deaths of hundreds of American troops in the Middle East, was authorized under the law, according to the president. Before that, Iran-backed militia groups attempted to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, lighting its structures on fire.
The resolution, meanwhile, would greatly harm Trump’s ability to protect the country and “implies that the President’s constitutional authority to use military force is limited to the defense of the United States and its forces against imminent attack.”
“We live in a hostile world of evolving threats, and the Constitution recognizes that the President must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response,” Trump said.
Before its passage in February, some senators 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,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at the time. “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.”