U.S. Senate votes to restrain Trump on Iran but faces his veto
Eight senators of Trump’s Republican Party, which enjoys a majority, bucked their leadership to join Democrats in a resolution that bars any military action against Iran without an explicit vote from Congress.
“The Senate just sent a clear shot across the bow — a bipartisan majority of senators don’t want the president waging war without congressional approval,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.
The resolution will head to the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which passed a similar text last month.
But much like an earlier attempt by Congress to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s devastating offensive in Yemen, Trump is nearly certain to issue a veto, with lawmakers lacking the two-thirds majority to overturn it.
Moments before the vote, a rocket slammed into an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops in the first attack on the site since a Dec. 27 barrage killed a U.S. contractor, according to Iraqi and U.S. security sources. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine introduced the resolution after Soleimani’s death, concerned that the United States was rushing into another Middle East war without debate.
While warning of dire consequences of an escalating conflict with Iran, Kaine said his main point was to restore the authority of Congress to declare war, as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.
“An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote. This should not be a controversial proposition,” Kaine said in a speech on the Senate floor.
The resolution makes an exception if the United States is “defending itself from an imminent act.”
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth put concerns about Trump more bluntly.
“My 21-month-old toddler has better self-control than this president does,” she told reporters.
Tensions have soared between the United States and Iran since 2018 when Trump withdrew from a denuclearization accord negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at reducing Tehran’s regional clout.
Soleimani, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards’ overseas Quds force, enjoyed vast influence within the clerical regime and was seen by the United States as orchestrating rocket attacks in Iraq.
The Senate defeated a motion by Sen. Tom Cotton, a vociferous opponent of Iran, to gut the resolution by exempting any military action directed at “designated terrorist organizations.”
The Trump administration last year classified the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, the first time the United States has done so to a government body.
Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe denied Trump was seeking war and described the killing of Soleimani as self-defense.
“There is no war with Iran. An airstrike is not a war. Punishing Iran for killing an American citizen is not a war,” he said.
“In fact, the president’s decision to eliminate Soleimani has made war much less likely because it showed Iran that its terrorism would come at a price.”
Sen. Susan Collins, a closely watched moderate Republican, said the resolution did not cease ongoing activities such as U.S. Navy patrols around the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial choke-point for oil shipments.
The Iranian regime should not “interpret these votes as a lack of resolve against its aggression and malign activities in the region,” she told reporters.
But the resolution, she said, will show that “no president has the authority to commit our military to a sustained conflict.”
Among other Republicans who voted yes was Mike Lee, who said a classified session by the Trump administration after the Soleimani killing was uninformative and the “worst” defense briefing he has ever received.
Senator Mitt Romney, the sole Republican who decided to convict Trump, voted against restricting him on Iran.