Senate has the votes to rein in Trump's war powers


Four Republican senators are joining Democrats to demand Congress be involved in war-making decisions.

A majority of U.S. senators now back a resolution to limit Donald Trump's ability to carry out military strikes against Iran, Defense News’ Joe Gould reported Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the lead sponsor of the resolution, said four Republicans — Todd Young of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky — have agreed to vote with all 45 Senate Democrats, as well as the two independents who caucus with the Democrats, bringing the total to 51. 

In a Jan. 10 interview with the Indianapolis Star, Young said it would be "wise and appropriate that Congress" be more involved in war-making decisions. "I think we really owe it to our men and women in uniform as members of Congress to be more assertive as it relates to our war power," he said. 

Alaska's Lisa Murkowski is also considering voting for the resolution. Utah's Mitt Romney, who earlier said he was considering voting for it, announced Tuesday evening that he will not support it after all. 

Lee and Paul have been particularly outspoken about their discomfort with the Trump administration's ever-changing rationale for the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Lee blasted a Jan. 8 briefing for senators as "the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate."

The message from administration officials, according to Lee, was for lawmakers to "run along and be good little boys and girls and not debate." Lee was furious.

"I find this insulting and demeaning," Lee said. "Not personally, but to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States to which we've all sworn an oath."

Paul called the administration's reliance on a post-9/11 congressional authorization of force to defend the strike "absurd" and "an insult."

The White House initially justified the attack by claiming it had intelligence that Soleimani was plotting an "imminent attack." Almost a week later, on Jan. 9, Trump claimed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was going to be attacked, along with three other unnamed U.S. embassies. However, the administration has not released any evidence to support that claim and has since walked back several of the assertions. 

On Monday, Trump declared on Twitter that "it doesn't really matter" whether the strike that killed Soleimani was in direct response to an imminent threat.  

Further, it turns out Trump approved a mission to kill Soleimani seven months ago, calling into question the imminence of an attack. Additionally, the State Department was not aware of any imminent threats, and therefore did not warn any embassies of impending threats. One senior State Department official told CNN that they were "blindsided" when Trump declared that four embassies were potentially in harm's way.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump approved the attack in part to appease Republican senators who hold sway in the upcoming impeachment trial.

On Jan. 9, a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution to rein Trump Iranian aggression without further approval from Congress.

According to the Hill, the soonest Senate Democrats would be able to force a vote on the resolution is Jan. 21, the same day Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump's impeachment trial will begin. Kaine said he may be able to broker an agreement to hold a vote before then.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.