The Democratic sponsor of a Senate resolution to limit Donald Trump’s military authority in Iran said on Tuesday he had the votes to pass the measure after securing support from four Republicans willing to break with the president.
“We now have a majority of senators, Democrat and Republican, who will stand strong for the principle that we shouldn’t be starting wars without a vote of Congress,” Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia tweeted on Tuesday.
Susan Collins, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee and is one of the four Republicans backing the measure, agreed to co-sponsor Mr Kaine’s resolution, saying: “Congress cannot be sidelined on these important decisions.”
The timing of a vote on the resolution was uncertain because of the impending Senate impeachment trial of Mr Trump. Supporters also lack the votes in the Republican-controlled chamber to override an almost-certain veto by the president, making the measure largely symbolic.
Mr Kaine, a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, watered down an earlier version of his text after it proved unpalatable to Republicans, removing references to Mr Trump and divisions between his administration and the Pentagon.
The earlier text said defence department officials had warned for more than a year that the Trump administration’s commitment to a “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran was “raising the risk of retaliation” against the US.
The Senate resolution represented the latest effort by lawmakers to box in Mr Trump’s foreign policy decisions. Congress has taken measures to force Mr Trump’s hand on Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, pushing him to take a harder line against each, including directing him to impose sanctions.
Mr Kaine found some cross-party support for his measure after intelligence briefings last week, which some senators said failed to justify Mr Trump’s decision to order the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
Mike Lee, one of the Republican senators who supports the measure, said the briefing was “probably the worst” he had heard in his nine years in Congress.
The resolution would force Mr Trump to withdraw all US forces operating against Iran in the absence of congressional approval. It would permit emergency actions in the case of imminent threat, such as those claimed by senior members of Mr Trump’s national security team as justification for striking Soleimani, however.
Republican Tom Cotton, an Iran hawk in the Senate, said the resolution was a “reckless action” that sought to tie the president’s hands and represented an explicit rebuke to Mr Trump for ordering Soleimani’s killing.
Last week, the Democratic-controlled House approved a resolution to limit the president’s ability to take military action in Iran. The concurrent resolution, which does not require the president’s approval, passed the House 224-194 on mostly party lines.
Three Republicans voted for the motion, including Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has been a staunch defender of Mr Trump during the House impeachment inquiry.
While the resolution was non-binding, Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House, insisted it had “real teeth”, telling reporters: “America and the world cannot afford war.”