Senate fails to override Trump’s Iran war powers veto

The Senate on Thursday failed to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution seeking to rein in his ability to take military action against Iran.

Senators voted 49-44, falling short of the two-thirds support necessary to nix Trump’s veto and send the effort to the House.

The Senate vote comes less than a day after Trump vetoed the resolution, marking the seventh time he has used his veto pen since entering office in 2017.

The resolution, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would require Trump to pull U.S. troops from any hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless he gets congressional approval for the military action.

The issue came to a head earlier this year when the United States launched an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, sparking weeks of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Kaine urged his colleagues to support the resolution, saying it would “avoid unnecessary war in the Middle East.”

“I urge my colleagues to join me in voting to override his veto. Unless there’s a carefully reached consensus in Congress that war is necessary, we should not be sending our troops into harm’s way,” he said.

The resolution was expected to fall short. It initially passed the Senate in February in a 55-45 vote with eight GOP senators supporting it. It then passed the House in March in a 227-186 vote. But because Congress was out of town the resolution wasn’t formally sent to the White House until this week, where Trump quickly vetoed it.

Trump, in a statement accompanying the veto message, lashed out at Congress, saying it “should not have passed this resolution.”

“This was a very insulting resolution, introduced by Democrats as part of a strategy to win an election on November 3 by dividing the Republican Party. The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands,” he said in the statement.

Kaine argued in a call with reporters that Trump was making the resolution about his reelection bid.

“That’s what he’s worried about, not worried about war. He’s worried about himself and his reelection. And so he can only look at this important constitutional matter, and there isn’t a more important one than war and peace, through the lens of Donald Trump and my own reelection,” Kaine said.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking from the floor on Thursday, urged the Senate to uphold the president’s veto, calling the war powers resolution “misguided.” 

“Iran has not let popular unrest, a mismanaged economy or even COVID-19 slow their aggressive meddling from Yemen to the Mediterranean. … We must maintain the measure of deterrence that we restored with the decisive strike on Soleimani. That starts today with upholding the president’s rightful veto of a misguided war powers resolution,” he said.

Foreign policy has emerged as a rolling point of tension between Congress and the White House.

In some instances the tensions have broadly united those on opposite sides of the aisle. In 2017, Congress overwhelmingly passed new Russia sanctions despite opposition from the Trump administration. And in January 2019, the Senate agreed to a measure that warned Trump against withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Syria — language that was spearheaded by McConnell.

But Democrats, like on the first war powers vote, are able to use procedural loopholes to be able to force votes and pass resolutions initially by a simple majority.

The Senate marked a historic first in December 2018 when it voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the first time since the implementation of the War Powers Act in 1973 that the chamber passed a resolution under the law. Republicans, who then controlled the House, blocked the resolution, but Congress passed it again in early 2019 and forced Trump to issue his second veto. 

Rebecca Kheel contributed.

Tags Donald Trump Iran Mitch McConnell Tim Kaine
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