The U.S. Senate issued a rare bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump Thursday when it approved a resolution that would curtail his ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval.
The resolution passed with support from 55 senators, including eight Republicans.
All 47 senators who caucus with the Democratic Party (45 Democrats and two independents) backed the resolution, as did GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
The vote comes a month after Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, without congressional approval. Military officials said Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time, had active plans to kill Americans, but Trump’s critics in Congress have said the evidence of such a threat hasn’t been sufficient to risk a U.S. war against Iran.
The tally in the Senate is not enough to override a presidential veto, which the Trump administration threatened Wednesday.
Specifically, the resolution would require the president to brief Congress and the public before the United States takes hostile military action against Iran and would require that Congress debate and vote on such matters before military action occurs.
The House approved its own war powers resolution last month, but it differs from the Senate version passed Thursday.
“This is not about the presidency, this is not about wanting a weak presidency or a weak commander in chief,” Utah’s Mike Lee said at a press conference. “This really is about the proper allocation of power between the three branches of government.”
Congress, he said, has been losing its authority in this area in recent years, a point with which Collins agreed.
“Over the past decade, regrettably, Congress has too often abdicated its constitutional responsibility on authorizing the sustained use of military force,” she said.
In response to Trump ordering the attack on Suleimani, Iran attacked two bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops. The attacks did not kill anyone, but more than 100 U.S. troops sustained traumatic brain injuries, The New York Times reported.
Trump characterized the injuries as “headaches” and said he didn’t consider them very serious.
The incident renewed the debate over war powers under the Constitution, which divides authority between the legislative and executive branches of government.
Article II of the Constitution designates the president as commander in chief of the armed forces, while Article I grants Congress the power to declare war and to raise and support the armed forces. Less clear is the extent of the president’s authority to deploy U.S. military into hostile situations without prior approval, according to the U.S. Library of Congress.