Impeachment trial complicates efforts to rein in Trump on Iran

Impeachment trial complicates efforts to rein in Trump on Iran
© Greg Nash

The looming impeachment trial in the Senate is threatening to cut short a debate over President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE’s war powers.

The airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last week has sparked fierce criticism on Capitol Hill about Trump’s authority to carry out military actions against Iran without congressional approval, reigniting a long-stalled debate about a new authorization for the use of military force.

The House is set to vote this week on a war powers resolution. Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHouse war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE (D-Va.) has introduced a similar measure, but it cannot be brought up for a vote in the Senate until mid-January at the earliest.

ADVERTISEMENT

The procedural delay in the Senate is raising the prospect that the chamber will have to delay its war powers fight for weeks if Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' MORE (D-Calif.) sends over the articles of impeachment in the coming days, as some Democrats have said she is likely to do.

Leaders in both parties said they expected the war powers vote would take a backseat to impeachment absent a deal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPoll shows Collins displaces McConnell as most unpopular senator Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' Trump says impeachment trial should move 'very quickly' MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it GOP senator: 2020 candidates must recuse themselves from impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.).

“It preempts it unless we reach an agreement that we’ll be in session from 10 to noon for regular legislative session, but that would take unanimous consent,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Senators under strict orders to pay attention during weeks-long impeachment trial MORE (Ill.), who is co-sponsoring Kaine’s resolution, told The Hill.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial Senate opens Trump impeachment trial Seven things to know about the Trump trial MORE (Mo.), the No. 4 GOP senator, added that “the impeachment becomes a priority under our rules.”

A spokesman for Pelosi didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday about when she will transmit the two impeachment articles to the Senate. The House Democratic Caucus is expected to meet on Wednesday, the first time they will huddle as a group since they left town in mid-December for the holiday recess.

Democrats are increasingly urging Pelosi to transmit the articles after Republicans indicated they have the 51 votes needed to muscle through their own rules for the impeachment trial. That would punt a decision on witnesses until after opening arguments and after senators ask questions.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think she will be moving on it. I can’t tell you what her timetable will be,” Durbin said. “I hope she’ll consider it this week.”

Under the Senate’s impeachment rules, the trial starts the day after Pelosi sends the articles to the Senate unless that day is a Sunday.

Kaine introduced his war powers resolution on Friday. The measure would require Trump to remove U.S. forces from hostilities against Iran, “or any part of its government or military,” within 30 days unless it is in defense against an “imminent attack.”

The resolution is privileged, meaning McConnell can’t prevent a floor vote. But it faces a 10-day delay under the rules, meaning the earliest Democrats can try to bring it to the floor is Jan. 14, according to Kaine.

“I’m very worried about his escalatory activities and Iran’s, but that’s why we filed it as soon as we can,” Kaine said.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said a House-passed war powers resolution would face the same 10-day delay for a floor vote once it is sent over.

Blunt, referring to Kaine’s resolution and the forthcoming House measure, predicted it was unlikely they could get consent to let either move alongside impeachment.

“You certainly wouldn’t have [it] on those two things,” Blunt said. “I think it would be hard to legislate. ... Not much of a window for legislating without a substantial level of consent.”

Kaine added that his resolution is privileged for 60 days, meaning Democrats could force a vote after the impeachment trial, which is expected to last for weeks.

Support, or opposition, for Trump’s actions toward Iran has largely broken down along party lines. Administration officials have said they targeted Soleimani based on intelligence that showed him planning an imminent attack that threatened U.S. personnel. But they have been tight-lipped about those details.

Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites has run into high-profile GOP opposition, including from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Roberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial MORE (S.C.) and McConnell.

But it’s unlikely that Democrats would be able to muster the two-thirds support necessary to override a likely veto if the resolution makes it to Trump’s desk. They also do not currently have the 51 votes needed for the war powers resolution to initially pass in the Senate.

Four Republicans supported an amendment from Kaine and Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE (D-N.M.) that would have included language in the Senate’s initial National Defense Authorization Act that would have prevented Trump from using funding to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. The amendment fell short of the 60 votes needed for adoption.

But none of the four Republicans — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll shows Collins displaces McConnell as most unpopular senator Collins says she's 'likely' to support calling witnesses for impeachment trial Democratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOvernight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall War powers fight in Senate runs squarely into impeachment Third GOP senator says he'll support Iran war powers resolution MORE (Kan.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' Ocasio-Cortez accuses Rand Paul of taking climate change comments out of context, compares GOP agenda to 'Spaceballs' plot MORE (Ky.) — has committed to supporting Kaine’s new resolution.

“There are problems with the findings of fact in the resolution, so Sen. Lee will not be supporting it as written,” said Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee.

Collins, Paul and Moran, or their spokespeople, have all said they are reviewing Kaine’s resolution.

Kaine stopped short of naming Republicans he thought would support his resolution, but noted that he’s having conversations with his colleagues.

“It needs to get a vote, and it needs to get a vote soon to hopefully stop the rush to war,” Kaine said of his war powers resolution. “Whether it’s before or after impeachment comes over, that’s still a question mark.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats have not called for Pelosi to delay sending over the articles until the Senate can hold a war powers vote.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim US citizen dies in Egyptian prison after hunger strike President Trump's strike of choice MORE (D-Conn.) added that, if it were up to him, “we would find a way to do both at the same time,” but predicted that McConnell wasn’t interested in having the war powers vote.

“McConnell is going to make that decision,” he said. “My guess is he won’t want to do much oversight over Iran. My guess is he’ll want a speedy trial.”

 

Alexander Bolton contributed.