Democrats scramble to rein in Trump's Iran war powers

Democrats are racing against the clock to shore up support for checking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE’s war powers as the fight shifts to the Senate.

Lawmakers looking to limit Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran face a tight time frame with little room for error after House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Stone judge under pressure over calls for new trial MORE (D-Calif.) announced she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week. Once the trial begins, all legislation is expected to be delayed for weeks.

But a resolution from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Republicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (D-Va.) can come to the Senate floor as soon as Tuesday morning, and he has been trying to win over the four GOP votes needed, in addition to every Democratic senator, to get to 51 votes.

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“Republicans are giving us some good suggestions, some Democrats too, about things they would like to see,” Kaine said, adding that he was “in dialogue with a number of” GOP senators.

Kaine’s resolution, as originally introduced, would call for the U.S. to “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran” within 30 days unless it was responding to an “imminent” threat.

The Senate previously voted 50-40 on an amendment from Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution MORE (D-N.M.) to an annual defense policy bill that prevented Trump from using funding for military action against Iran. The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed for adoption.

Four Republican senators voted for the proposal at the time: Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (Kan.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms MORE (Ky.). Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.) missed the June vote but supported the measure, giving Kaine a pathway to 51 votes this week. 

So far, Lee and Paul have said they will support Kaine’s war powers resolution after they left a closed-door briefing on the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani visibly angry with the administration.

Lee told reporters that administration official — whom he declined to name — said during Wednesday’s briefing that Congress would “embolden” Iran if it debated Trump’s war powers.

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“I walked into the briefing undecided, I walked out of that briefing decided specifically because of what happened in that briefing," Lee said.

Paul added that he had wanted to wait until after he saw the intelligence behind the Soleimani strike but characterized the administration’s decision to use a 2002 authorization for the use of military force as "absurd" and an "insult."

That leaves Democrats two short of the simple majority needed to pass the war powers resolution and pave the way for a veto showdown with Trump. 

Kaine added that he is open to potential changes and is in discussions with several GOP senators, including members of the Foreign Relations Committee and Republicans who voted for a separate resolution requiring the president to withdraw any troops in or "affecting" Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda. Trump vetoed that resolution last year. 

Collins said she met with Kaine for half an hour but has not made a final decision.

“The language is not yet final, and we discussed some of the issues. Until Sen. Kaine decides on his final language, I cannot determine whether or not I will support it,” she said.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungLobbying World Republican Senate campaign arm hauled in over million in January The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ind.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who voted for the Yemen resolution, confirmed he is also in discussions with Kaine. 

“I do have some reservations that I shared with him. Candidly, I’ve been trying to think through the implications of its introduction ... and whether, you know, it’s still every bit as relevant as it would have been prior to the strikes” on Iraqi bases by Iran, Young added.

Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOrange County declaring local health emergency in response to coronavirus Why Bernie Sanders won the debate Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE (R-Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MORE (R-Alaska) and Moran have not revealed how they will vote on Kaine’s measure. 

Murkowski told Alaska radio station KTOO that she has not made a final decision, adding that her “inclination right now is, I’m hesitant to sign on to it for a host of different reasons.”

Romney, meanwhile, noted to reporters that he voted against Kaine’s Iran proposal in June but “he has made a number of changes since then, and I’ve not seen the latest version, so I’ll be taking a look.”

A Democratic aide said that while Kaine’s bill can be brought to the floor as soon as Tuesday, Democrats could delay forcing a vote if they’re still pursuing negotiations with undecided Republicans.

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Kaine has made changes to the bill in order to try to attract more support, including removing two paragraphs in the "findings" section that directly mention Trump over concerns from Republicans and some Democrats that it was too political.

Kaine stopped short of saying whether the changes would be enough to win him the crucial final votes for his resolution. 

“Until they say they’re on board, they’re not,” he said when asked if the changes had won over additional Republicans. “The changes that I have made, I think they’re viewed favorably by a number of other Republicans. But nobody yet said, ‘OK, that’s sufficient. I’m on.’” 

“But I’m making changes and responding to their good faith questions and concerns to try to win their support,” Kaine added. 

It’s unclear when the House impeachment articles will be sent to the Senate, but Pelosi indicated Friday that she would address the matter with her caucus on Tuesday, meaning a trial could start as soon as Wednesday. 

Democrats want a deal to be able to vote on war powers on the sidelines of impeachment if they aren’t able to finish the debate before the start of the trial, though members of Senate GOP leadership have been skeptical they’ll be able to get an agreement, even though Republicans also want to pass Trump’s trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

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Absent a vote next week, Kaine’s resolution will be privileged for a floor vote until early March, 60 days after its introduction.

The House passed a similar resolution last week, largely along party lines, but it is a concurrent resolution, meaning it doesn’t go to Trump’s desk and isn’t legally binding.

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide said the House resolution will also face a 10-day delay once it is sent to the Senate before it can be brought up on the floor, making it unlikely the House measure would be brought up before the start of an impeachment trial.

Kaine said he was likely to work some of the House language into his resolution, specifically changing his wording about removing troops to the House’s use of “termination of the use of U.S. armed forces” in hostilities against Iran after some colleagues raised concerns that “removing” suggested a pullback of U.S. troops from the region.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKhanna introduces bill to add a third gender option on US passports Omar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Democrats call for Twitter, Facebook to take down Pelosi video posted by Trump MORE (D-Calif.), who supported the House-passed resolution, predicted the House would take up Kaine’s resolution if it’s able to pass the Senate. 

“I think a joint resolution actually would be perhaps even better,” he said. “It would have to be signed by the president, and it would require the president then to actually veto it like we did on Yemen.”

Rebecca Kheel contributed.