Senate rejects attempt to curb Trump's Iran war powers

Senators blocked an effort on Friday to restrict President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 KaineAcosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' Schumer calls on Acosta to step down over Epstein MORE (Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' 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. 

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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 CollinsGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist Fox personalities blast Trump's remarks MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans Overnight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranBottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown Trade truce puts focus on next steps in US-China talks MORE (Kan.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe buck stops here: How to restore accountability to the federal regulatory system Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations MORE (Ky.) broke ranks and supported the amendment. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure 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 InhofeThis week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran 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 ThuneGOP struggles to find backup plan for avoiding debt default GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries High anxiety hits Senate over raising debt ceiling 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNYT: Don't make Acosta a political martyr Charities say they never received donations touted by Jeffrey Epstein: report Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence 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.