Trump Vetoes ‘Very Insulting’ Measure Limiting His Powers to Attack Iran: Says Constitution recognizes his right to unilaterally launch hostilities on Iran
(May 6, 2020) — Passed in the Senate in February and the House in March, the Iran War Powers Resolution appears to have come to an end on Wednesday when it was vetoed by President Trump, who insisted it was “very insulting” and dangerous to limit his ability to attack Iran.
The resolution was a preemptive War Powers Act challenge to a war with Iran, aiming to note that Congress has not in any way authorized a US war against Iran, and ordering them to stop any military actions related to this unauthorized conflict.
Trump has repeatedly argued that the Constitution gives him the absolute right to make decisions on who to attack, saying it was insulting to suggest otherwise, and that it would be dangerous to any way limit the possibility of the US carrying out preemptive attacks.
The War Powers Act gives Congress the power to limit such actions. That said, neither the House nor Senate passed the resolution with anywhere near a veto-proof majority, and that likely means Trump’s veto is the end of this particular legal challenge, for now.
House Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Opposed by Trump
WASHINGTON (March 11, 2020) — The House of Representatives approved a War Powers resolution Wednesday, aiming to rein in presidential authority to use military action against Iran without congressional approval.
The resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, passed the Senate last month with bipartisan support despite President Donald Trump’s vocal opposition to it.
It passed the House with a vote of 227-186. A handful of Republicans, including Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Tom Reed of New York, joined Democrats in supporting the resolution.
It will now be sent to the White House, where Trump is expected to veto it. Congress is not expected to have enough votes to override a presidential veto. Although it is unlikely to become law, passage of the resolution by both chambers represents a significant rebuke to the President and highlights congressional support for efforts to check the executive branch’s war-making powers.
The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure last month ahead of its passage, tweeting, “It is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”
The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”
It includes a provision ensuring the President would still be able to defend the United States from “imminent attack” absent congressional approval.
Kaine introduced the War Powers resolution last month following the President’s decision to order a strike that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
The House passed a similar resolution in January, but it was non-binding and not identical to the Iran War Powers resolution introduced by Kaine.
House Votes to Curtail Trump’s Iran War Powers, Setting Up Veto Fight
(March 11, 2020) — The House on Wednesday voted to curtail military action against Iran, the latest turn in a tussle over President Donald Trump’s war powers after nearly a year of heightened tensions in the Middle East.
The war powers measure passed 227 to 186, next heads to Trump’s desk. The resolution amounts to a legal slap on the wrist for Trump, who is certain to veto the resolution.
The Senate passed the measure, sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), in February. But neither chamber has passed the measure with nearly enough votes to overcome a veto.
The resolution calls for end to military hostilities against Iran without congressional authorization.
Democrats — and a handful of Republicans wary of expansive presidential powers — have been seeking to restrict Trump’s aims on Iran since last year.
Those efforts gained steam in January after Trump ordered the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani — which the administration argued came in response to an imminent threat — and a retaliatory missile attack by Iran against bases housing US troops in Iraq.
Since then, the House has passed its own war powers resolution, which the Senate did not take up. House Democrats also pushed through legislation from progressive California Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, respectively, to block funding for offensive military operations against Iran that aren’t authorized by Congress and repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization the administration employed to justify killing Soleimani.
Democrats have panned the Trump administration’s legal and tactical explanations for the strike in the intervening months. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) argued the legislation was still needed even though “tensions have ratcheted down” between the US and Iran.
“The drafters of the War Powers Resolution accounted for the situation we are in today,” Engel said on the House floor. “They were clear that Congress’ powers are not as narrow as the administration would like us to believe, and apparently as some members of this body would like us to believe.
“The American people don’t want war with Iran. Congress has not authorized war with Iran,” he added. “That should be crystal clear.”
But only six Republicans broke ranks to support the measure, well short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Only eight Senate Republicans supported the measure last month, passing the chamber with below the threshold to overturn a veto.
The vote comes amid reports that three people, including two US troops, were killed in a rocket attack at Iraq’s Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad. Army Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesperson for the US mission against ISIS, said on Twitter that the base was hit with “more than 15 small rockets,” but provided no additional details on the attack.
House Republicans, meanwhile, contended Trump had exercised restraint against Iran and called the resolution a partisan exercise.
“In my judgment, we are wasting precious legislative days and setting a terrible precedent of abusing war powers procedures,” said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Foreign Affairs Republican.
The measure was also hailed by advocacy groups aiming to restrain executive war powers and limit future overseas wars.
“The United States should always retain the capability to protect itself from threats, and it is important to note this measure does not prohibit the president from defending our country and our fellow Americans should they be threatened,” said Nate Anderson, executive director of Concerned Veterans of America, a conservative veterans’ group backed by the Koch family. “Rather, this is a positive step toward a better foreign policy that will better position America to prioritize American safety, engage productively in the world, and prevent endless wars with no clear mission or end goal.”
Defense policy legislation approved last year by the House included a provision, authored by Khanna and Trump ally Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), that would have required congressional authorization before taking military action against Iran. The provision was dropped from a compromise defense bill after opposition from the Republican Senate and the White House.
Progressive lawmakers are nonetheless predicting Iran will reemerge as a top issue when the House takes up its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act this spring.
Trump Vetoes Resolution Seeking to Prevent Military Action Against Iran
WASHINGTON (May 6, 2020) — President Trump has vetoed a resolution aimed at constraining his ability to take military action against Iran.
In a statement Wednesday, Trump said he vetoed the Iran war powers resolution that “purported to direct me to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces in hostilities against Iran.”
“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,” Trump added. “The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands.”
“Congress should not have passed this resolution,” he concluded.
Congress is not expected to have the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto.
The move marks the seventh time Trump has used his veto pen, including on a previous war powers resolution related to the US military’s assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war.
Congress passed the Iran war powers resolution nearly two months ago, but it was delayed in being officially sent to the White House as lawmakers stayed out of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic. The House officially enrolled the measure during a pro forma session in April, but the Senate did not enroll it until after the chamber fully returned to town this week.
The House approved the resolution in a 227-186 vote in March as one of its last votes before leaving town. Six Republicans joined with Democrats in approving the measure.
That followed the Senate’s 55-45 approval in February, when eight Republicans voted with Democrats to support the resolution.
Neither chamber’s vote reached the two-thirds threshold needed to override a presidential veto.
“Last year, in President Trump’s State of the Union remarks, he said: ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars,'” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement Wednesday. “But instead of following through on his word, President Trump vetoed legislation that would help 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.”
Congress took up the resolution — which directed the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against” Iran unless Congress specifically authorizes it — after Washington and Tehran appeared to be on the brink of war earlier this year.
US-Iran tensions have risen since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran started gradually stepping back from the deal itself in spring 2019 in a bid to pressure Europe to find a viable workaround to US sanctions or for Trump to relax sanctions.
But hostility skyrocketed in early January with a US drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani while he was at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.
Iran responded with a rocket attack on two military bases in Iraq housing US troops. More than 100 US troops were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries caused by the attack, 29 of whom US Central Command said this week are being awarded Purple Hearts.
In his statement, Trump argued the war powers resolution was based on “misunderstandings of facts and law.”
“Contrary to the resolution, the United States is not engaged in the use of force against Iran,” he said, reiterating his administration’s arguments that the Soleimani strike was allowed under the 2002 authorization for the use of military force passed to approve the Iraq War and the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief.
Trump also argued the resolution would have “greatly harmed” a president’s ability to protect the United States and its allies.
“The resolution implies that the president’s constitutional authority to use military force is limited to defense of the United States and its forces against imminent attack,” he said. “That is incorrect. We live in a hostile world of evolving threats, and the Constitution recognizes that the president must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response. That’s what I did!”
Since the January strikes, both sides have stepped back from the brink, but tensions linger.
Last month, the US military said 11 Iranian ships repeatedly made “dangerous and harassing approaches” of Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, including getting within 10 yards of a Coast Guard ship.
A week later, Trump threatened to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
The same day as Trump’s tweeted threat, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said it launched its first military satellite into space. Pentagon officials have said the satellite itself is not a threat because it is “tumbling” through space.
The rockets Iran uses for space launches, though, concern US officials. The United States maintains the launches are a cover for ballistic missile development and therefore a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution in which Iran is “called upon” to refrain from ballistic missile activity.
Washington and Tehran are also heading toward a showdown over a United Nations arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October. US officials are pushing for the embargo’s renewal, and on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed a “crushing response” if the United States is successful in extending the embargo.
Senate to Attempt to Override Trump’s Iran War Powers Veto
WASHINGTON (May 6, 2020) — The Senate will attempt on Thursday to override President Trump‘s veto of a resolution that constrains his ability to take military action against Iran without congressional signoff.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that the chamber will hold a veto override vote at 1:30 p.m. It’s expected to fall short of the two-thirds support needed, effectively ending the attempt to nix Trump’s veto.
The Senate’s vote will come less than a day after Trump vetoed the resolution and 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 a statement.
The resolution, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would require Trump to pull any US troops from any hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless he gets congressional approval for the military action.
“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,” Kaine said in a statement on Wednesday.
The resolution initially passed the Senate in February in a 55-45 vote, with eight GOP senators supporting it. It then passed the House in a 227-186 vote in March as one of its last votes before lawmakers left town amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats had vowed to force a vote on the resolution, which they are able to do under the War Powers Act, after the United States launched an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, sparking days of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
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