Senate defies Mitch McConnell and votes to curb Trump's war powers

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The Senate went on the record against the Trump administration waging unauthorized war with Iran.

Some 55 senators voted on Thursday to limit the Trump administration's ability to carry out military attacks on Iran without congressional authorization.

Despite fierce opposition from Donald Trump himself and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, eight Senate Republicans joined with all 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to pass the measure.

Trump declined to alert Democratic lawmakers before ordering a strike on Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the brutal leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, back in January. Soleimani was killed in that attack.

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He did inform some Republican lawmakers, notably South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said he was briefed on the planned airstrike while visiting Trump at his Florida golf resort.

Trump later claimed, without evidence, that he had kept the information from Democratic leaders because they could not be trusted with sensitive national security secrets.

Trump and his administration subsequently received bipartisan criticism for their attempts to retroactively justify the strike as urgent, spurred by an alleged "imminent" threat — proof of which never materialized.

Iran retaliated days after the strike on Soleimani by firing ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the move a "slap" intended to encourage the withdrawal of American troops from the region.

At least 100 American service members suffered brain injuries as a result of those retaliatory strikes. Trump initially bragged "All is well!" and wrongly stated that no Americans had been harmed, later dismissing reports of their injuries as "headaches" that were "not very serious."

On Jan. 9, the House voted 224 to 194 — mostly along party lines — to direct Trump to "terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in and against Iran."

With several Senate Republicans endorsing the effort, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) was able to bring the Senate version up for consideration this week.

McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday in a floor speech that he "strongly" opposed the "blunt and clumsy" resolution.

"The ill-conceived potshots at presidential authorities in the wake of a strike that succeeded using the blunt instrument of a war powers resolution is no substitute at all for answering these broader [foreign policy] questions," he told colleagues, urging them to defeat it.

On Wednesday, Trump also weighed in. He claimed it was "very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution."

"We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness," he tweeted. "Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani."

He added that if Congress were to tie his hands, Iran would have a "field day" and claimed Democrats were "only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party."

Despite Trump's and McConnell's entreaties, a handful of Republicans voted for the resolution this week, giving more than the required 51 vote majority.

It is unclear whether the resolutions will be binding without Trump's ascent; that question that has not yet been resolved by the federal court system.

Constitutionally, only Congress has the power to declare war. Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, the president has some leeway to unilaterally act in emergencies but must get authorization from Congress for longer military efforts. The rule also requires that the president "in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.