Senators blocked an effort on Friday to restrict President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s ability to go to war with Iran, handing a victory to Republicans and the White House.
Senators voted 50-40 on the proposal from Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (Va.) and Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (N.M.) to block the president from using funding to carry out military action without congressional authorization.
Sixty yes votes would have been required to get the amendment added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In a round of unusual procedural maneuvering, senators passed the mammoth defense bill on Thursday, but agreed to add the Kaine-Udall proposal retroactively if they could secure the votes.
Republicans, however, had appeared confident that they would be able to block it from getting added to the bill. If every Democrat supported the amendment they would still need to pick up 13 GOP senators, a heavy lift with the opposition from leadership. GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act before slow mail turns into no mail Kaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Seven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill MORE (Kan.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (Ky.) broke ranks and supported the amendment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.) argued that Democrats were playing politics because of their opposition to Trump’s administration, and predicted it would be defeated.
“None of our Democratic friends would be supporting this if there was a Democratic president,” McConnell said. “This is clearly within the bounds of measured response that have not been micromanaged by Congress in the past.”
He added that he "would love to have some Democratic support, but I think this is an example of the affliction with Trump derangement syndrome."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal The Pentagon budget is already out of control: Some in Congress want to make it worse MORE (R-Okla.) had told The Hill that “I don’t think it will get 60 votes.” Asked if he was confident of defeating the measure, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that he was.
“We want to defeat it, it’s at 60, and so we know what the numbers we need are,” he added. “We know where most of our members are.”
The vote comes amid growing tensions between the United States and Iran. Trump warned earlier this week that if Iran attacked “anything American” that he would respond with “great and overwhelming force,” including “in some areas … obliteration.”
Trump’s tweet comes days after he acknowledged that he called off strikes late last week because he believed they were "not proportionate" to Iran's downing of a U.S. surveillance drone.
The volatile situation sparked new red flags from Democrats who worry that Trump will get into a war with Iran, without a clear strategy or endgame.
“It's just so important that everybody be on the record on this, and we could not let the NDAA go by, when we were 10 minutes away from a war, without having the discussion or the troops and the public would have said ‘what the hell were you guys doing?’ ” Kaine said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) touted the vote, saying it showed a majority believe Trump "should come to Congress before bogging the country down in an endless war."
“A bipartisan majority of the Senate today sent an important message to President Trump: you do not have a blank check to pursue another endless war in the Middle East," Schumer said in a statement.
Schumer had told his colleagues during leadership meetings and a weekly caucus lunch that Democrats should support blocking the NDAA unless they got a vote, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meetings.
Despite the Senate's defeat of the measure, it's likely to crop back up when the House and Senate have to reconcile their competing defense bills. House Democrats are offering an amendment to their NDAA that would prohibit funding for U.S. military action against Iran unless Congress has declared war or enacted another specific authorization. It's expected to be adopted into their bill.
The demand for a vote in the Senate and the scheduling of the two 2020 Democratic primary debates required an unusual juggling of competing schedules, with some senators already planning to leave town on trips early Friday morning.
To try to accommodate every senator who wanted to vote, McConnell opened the chamber at 5 a.m. on Friday, roughly five hours before the Senate normally comes into session. Friday's vote marked the longest in modern Senate history, clocking in at just over 10 hours when it wrapped up after 3 p.m.
The rare Friday session was marked by unusual occurrences including casually dressed senators and Democrats presiding over part of the Senate, an unusual move for the GOP-controlled chamber.
Democrats clamored for a Friday vote in order to let the seven senators running for president to get back to Washington. Without a deal to hold a vote on the Iran amendment the caucus had threatened to bring down the defense bill, which has passed by bipartisan margins for nearly 60 years.
Schumer, according to an aide familiar with the meetings, told the caucus that they needed to "credibly threaten" blocking the defense bill if they wanted McConnell to give them an amendment vote.
McConnell initially brushed off talk of waiting until the Democratic presidential candidates returned to hold the vote. By Wednesday, however, he announced that he and Schumer had worked out a deal to hold a Friday vote.
“[It] was not wildly and enthusiastically greeted on my side,” McConnell told reporters on Thursday about the decision. “But we’ll be voting for a period of time.”
Kaine credited Democrats with remaining united in demanding a vote, but predicted that McConnell also got the OK from his caucus to put the proposal on the floor.
“I also think Mitch probably asked his own people and he probably found out that a lot of his folks were not afraid of this vote,” Kaine said. “Some are going to vote against Kaine-Udall strongly, some are probably going to vote for it. But people know where they are on this.”
—Updated at 3:35 p.m.