War powers fight in Senate runs squarely into impeachment

Senate Democrats hoping to rein in President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE’s ability to wage war against Iran secured majority support Tuesday for Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE’s (D-Va.) war powers resolution, but the timing of the measure is now in flux.

In a procedural snafu, Democrats won’t be able to force a vote on the measure until Tuesday at the earliest — the same day the Senate is expected to start Trump’s impeachment trial.

Senators are now working out the timing of when the resolution will be taken up, but Democrats were celebrating reaching the majority milestone Tuesday.

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“The good news from my standpoint is I now have 51 declared votes, with more considering getting on board, so it may be more than 51,” Kaine said.

The resolution was pushed over the top after Republican Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (Ind.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Trump's team rests, calls for quick end to trial MORE (Maine) said Tuesday they would support the measure following changes Kaine made in an effort to win GOP support.

“So I will be supporting shall we call it Kaine 2.0, the newer Kaine language,” Young said. “I just believe that prospectively Congress needs to stand up and take seriously for the first time in a long time our Article One responsibilities to authorize military force as things move forward.”

In her own statement, Collins said she would co-sponsor the revised resolution because Congress “cannot be sidelined on these important decisions.”

“The Kaine resolution would continue to allow the president to respond to emergencies created by aggression from any hostile nation, including Iran, and to repel an imminent attack by Iran or its proxy forces. It also does not alter the president’s inherent authority as commander in chief to defend our nation and U.S. forces abroad,” she said. “It simply makes clear that only the legislative branch may declare war or commit our armed forces to a sustained military conflict with Iran.”

Young and Collins joined Republican Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (Utah), who said they would support Kaine’s resolution last week after being infuriated by the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing on Iran.

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With every Democrat expected to support the resolution, four Republicans creates the simple majority it needed to pass.

The Senate is barreling toward a vote to check Trump’s war-making authority amid continued questions about the administration’s justification for a drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The administration has offered shifting explanations for why they carried out the strike, from citing Soleimani’s past attacks to claiming without evidence that he was plotting “imminent” attacks.

On Monday, Trump argued on Twitter it “doesn’t really matter” if Soleimani was planning imminent attacks because of his “horrible past.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was initially scheduled to get another closed-door briefing Wednesday from State Department officials on authorities for the use of force against Iran, but the meeting was canceled on Tuesday evening.

The House approved a war powers resolution last week in a largely party-line vote. The type of resolution Democrats used does not require Trump’s signature but may also not be legally binding.

Kaine’s resolution would be legally binding but would need Trump’s signature — setting Congress up for a veto showdown with Trump. Kaine noted he expects the House will take up his resolution once it passes the Senate.

Senate Democrats were originally expected to force a vote on Kaine’s resolution this week.

But Young and Collins said they wouldn’t support an initial procedural vote on Kaine’s original resolution, quashing a plan to get the resolution to the floor this week and then amend it on the floor.

In his bid to win Republican support, Kaine eliminated direct references to Trump from the findings section of the measure over concerns it was too political. He also changed the wording to say the administration must “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities” against Iran, rather than “removing,” amid concerns that would signal a pullback of U.S. troops from the region.

“I’m not likely to force a vote on Kaine one because I’ve got the votes on Kaine two and not on Kaine one,” Kaine said. “And I do think there’s something virtuous about bringing up the bipartisan version.”

Kaine introduced the second version as its own resolution Thursday, meaning the earliest Democrats can force a vote is Jan. 21.

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That puts the resolution on a collision course with the Senate’s impeachment trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims GOP confident of win on witnesses Collins Senate bid threatens to spark GOP rift in Georgia MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he expects to start Jan. 21 and which was expected to halt all legislative work.

Kaine said McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet Senate Democrats' super PAC raised million in 2019 As the mental health crisis grows, Puerto Ricans need long-term care MORE (D-N.Y.) are “talking through” the timing of taking up his resolution, but he expressed hope the Senate would be able to take up the measure and conduct the trial simultaneously.

“It’s widely understood that we will be doing other stuff during impeachment,” Kaine said. “The nice thing is leader McConnell and [Sen. John] Cornyn [R-Texas] and Schumer have all said we’re going to be taking up the Kaine war powers resolution soon.”

Schumer added that senators “have to figure out how it intersects with impeachment.”

“It is past time for Congress to place a check on this president,” Schumer said. “On matters of war and peace, congressional oversight, congressional prerogatives are not optional. I urge my colleagues on both sides to vote in favor of the Kaine resolution.”

Though four Republicans now support Kaine’s measure, it’s unclear if he can win over any other Republicans.

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McConnell warned Tuesday the resolution “risks jeopardizing what we have gained” in establishing deterrence after the Soleimani strike by telling “Iran we have no stomach for this.”

“America can hardly be defeated on the battlefield,” McConnell said. “But we can be defeated at home on the political front. We can allow ourselves to become divided and play into the hands of our adversaries. Our divisions at home are significant. Let us not allow them to pollute our judgment on foreign affairs. Let’s not make our adversaries’ lives easier by tying our military’s hands.”

A similar resolution from Kaine and Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallIt is time for companies and governments to holistically tackle single-use plastics Citizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy 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 MORE (D-N.M.) over the summer got four Republican votes: Paul, Young, Collins and Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranRepublicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight McConnell struggles to maintain GOP unity post-Bolton Schiff closes Dems' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump MORE (R-Kan.).

Moran said Tuesday he is still undecided on the war powers resolution.

“I’m looking at what’s going to be presented and making a decision if I’m for or against it,” Moran said.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP confident of win on witnesses Collins Senate bid threatens to spark GOP rift in Georgia Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight MORE (R-Utah), who said last week he would look at the resolution, said Tuesday he would oppose the most recent version of the measure out of concern it would “tie the president’s hands in responding to further potential Iranian aggression.”

“During this time of heightened tensions with Iran, I believe this resolution would undermine our deterrent capability and send the wrong message to Iran,” Romney said in a statement. “The balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches related to the use of military force is a long-standing issue of debate, and it is a debate we should have. However, with American troops in harm’s way, now is not the proper time and this resolution is not the right approach.”