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U.S. president Donald Trump at a G7 press conference. Picture courtesy of Ludovic Marin

UPDATE – Trump uses veto power against Iran resolution

U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday vetoed a measure that would limit his authority to launch military strikes against Iran absent congressional approval — a long-expected move from the commander in chief that had been delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The measure, earned bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and came after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad. It first passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Feb. 13 on a vote of 55 to 45, and the Democratic-led House passed it, 227 to 186, on March 11.

On January 3 Suleimani was hit by the drone strike while local allies from the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) drove him from Baghdad airport. The de facto leader of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close Suleimani associate, was also killed in the attack.

Commenting on the resolution Trump said in a statement today released by the White House: “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.”

The Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 53-to 47-seat majority, is expected to hold a veto-override vote as soon as Thursday. The resolution, which passed the House of Representatives in March and the Senate in April, was the latest effort by Congress to wrest back from the White House its constitutionally guaranteed authority to declare war. A handful of Republicans in both houses supported the measure when it passed, but not enough to muster the two-thirds majority necessary in both houses to override a veto.

Trump asserted that the war powers resolution would also “greatly” damage his responsibility to protect the United States’s national security interests and said the strike that killed Soleimani was legal under existing authorizations for use of military force.

“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,” Trump said. “That’s what I did!”

UPDATE from Reuters

The U.S. Senate failed on Thursday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have reined in his ability to wage war against Iran by requiring him to obtain congressional authorization for military action.

The vote was 49-44 in favor of the resolution, but that fell short of the two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, needed to override a veto in the 100-member Senate.

The resolution, led by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, had passed the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House of Representatives earlier this year with support from Democrats and Republicans despite Trump’s opposition.

Trump vetoed it on Wednesday, calling it “very insulting” and accusing Democrats of pursuing the matter for political reasons, although the measure was introduced by some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats.

Kaine responded by saying that Congress is doing its job by trying to assert its authority to weigh in on the use of military force.

“It is not a partisan effort. It was bipartisan from the very beginning,” Kaine told reporters on a conference call before the vote.

“It was introduced to stop a rush to an unnecessary war,” he said.

Trump also contended that, as commander in chief he needed to retain broad authority for military action against Iran. Trump withdrew the United States in 2018 from the international nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic reached under his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and has been waging a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Tehran government.

The war powers resolution was introduced weeks after Trump ordered a strike in January that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. The strike in Iraq raised fears of renewed conflict in the Middle East and frustrated members of Congress from both parties who said they were not sufficiently briefed on the decision.

It was the seventh veto of Trump’s three-year-long presidency. None has been overridden. Trump’s fellow Republicans, who hold a 53 to 47-seat majority in the Senate, rarely break with the president.

The measure would require Trump to remove U.S. troops engaged in hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or passes a specific authorization for the use of military force.

It was the latest in a series of recent efforts by lawmakers from both parties – during Obama’s presidency as well as under Trump – to wrest back Congress’ constitutional right to declare war.

Source: various agencies

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