Senate poised to pass bill curbing Trump's war powers with Iran after Soleimani strike, but a veto is likely

WASHINGTON – The Senate is expected to approve a resolution in the coming days that would restrict President Donald Trump‘s ability to wage war with Iran. 

The debate, which begins Wednesday, comes amid ongoing questions about Trump’s controversial decision to authorize a drone strike killing Iran’s most powerful military leader in January.

Senate Democrats say they have enough Republican support to win passage of the measure, which would bar Trump from using military force against Iran unless Congress specifically voted to authorize such action.

“We now have a majority of colleagues, Democratic and Republican, who will stand strong for the principle that we shouldn’t be at war without a vote of Congress,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in January.

Democrats say Trump acted recklessly when he green-lighted the deadly attack on Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani – a decision that heightened U.S.-Iranian tensions and sparked fears of a broader conflict in the Middle East.

“For years, I’ve been deeply concerned about President Trump stumbling into a war with Iran. We’re now at a boiling point,” Kaine said in introducing his resolution.

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Republicans hold a 53-seat majority, and most GOP senators are likely to oppose the resolution, arguing it’s unnecessary and unconstitutional.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the bill would “severely limit” the Pentagon’s ability to defend the U.S. against threats posed by Iran. And he blasted Democrats for their criticism of the Soleimani killing. 

“This was not some reckless act. It was a calculated and limited response to a significant, growing threat of attack against U.S. personnel in Iraq by an emboldened adversary,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech Tuesday. Trump’s decision, he added, has restored deterrence and reduced the risk of war. 

It’s not yet clear when the Senate will vote on final passage of the measure.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee, joined at right by Sen.Tom Carper, D-Del., responds to reporters following a briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and other national security officials Jan. 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill.

Even if Kaine’s bill passes the Senate and the House, Trump is almost certain to veto it. And there’s little chance Kaine and his allies could get the two-thirds super-majority needed to override a veto.

The House approved a bill on Jan. 30 that would block Trump from using any federal funds for “unauthorized military force against Iran.” Trump is also likely to veto that measure, which passed 228-175.

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Kaine, the chief sponsor of the resolution, has long advocated for a more assertive congressional role in the use of American military might. 

Kaine said four GOP senators agreed to support his resolution: Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Todd Young of Indiana. 

“Congress cannot be sidelined on these important decisions,” Collins said in a statement announcing her support for the measure. “The Constitution vests Congress with the sole power to declare war.”

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