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US Senate Poised to Limit Trump’s Iran War Powers

February 12, 2020 by  

Republican senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee said the briefing on Trump’s engagement with Iran following the death of Suleimani was among the worst they had been given during their time in the U.S. Senate.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued the legislation would “severely limit the U.S. military’s operational flexibility to defend itself against threats posed by Iran.”

In a floor speech Tuesday, McConnell said “when Soleimani’s record of brutality was brought to an end, some Washington Democrats immediately suggested President Trump was leading us into World War III. While the Middle East masses rejoiced at the death of a principal architect of Iran’s campaign of terror, Washington elites fretted. But thus far, it appears the Soleimani strike has indeed had the intended effect.”

Senate action on the war powers resolution follows a number of votes in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at addressing rising tensions with Iran.  

In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged Suleimani was a terrible person, while stressing the importance of congressional debate over war powers.  

The House voted nearly along party lines on Jan. 9, passing a non-binding resolution similar to Kaine’s legislation by a 224-194 vote.  

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a House floor speech, “If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation. The resolution we will be voting on today allows us to start that debate as our founders intended.”

Later in the month, a pair of bills limiting Trump’s military authority passed the House with some Republican support. The first bill limits funding for overseas military action if the president has not sought congressional approval for his or her actions.

The second bill repealed the 2020 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) resolution that was broadly used by presidents of both parties to justify U.S. military actions overseas. Trump used the 2002 AUMF in part to justify his strike against Suleimani, also citing an imminent threat to U.S. personnel overseas.  

The White House said Trump would veto both pieces of House-passed legislation if they passed the Republican-majority Senate.  

Kaine gained Republican support for his resolution after removing references to Trump and his administration’s policy toward Iran. The Senate war powers resolution is non-binding, but is almost certain to be faced with a White House veto threat if passed.   

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