While Senate Republicans are still willing to overlook Donald Trump’s subversion of the American justice system, as well as the presidency, at least a few of them are having second thoughts about allowing him free reign on foreign policy after he violated international laws on war crimes to illegally assassinate the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassim Suleimani, last month.
Eight Republican Senators joined the entire Democratic roster in the Senate today to support a bill that would restrict the president from taking any further military action against Iran without specific congressional approval, just as the Constitution outlines any declaration of war should proceed, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
The resolution was introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and is expected to receive a final vote tomorrow.
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Although the immediate danger of active hostilities with Iran seems to have dwindled somewhat after the unilateral action taken by Trump with ever-shifting explanations for its justification — an action that many saw as designed as much for its distraction from the news coverage of Trump’s impeachment at the height of the damaging, if ultimately futile, revelations of his malfeasance — it appears that at least a few GOP senators are reluctant to leave the president completely unrestrained with his imperial interpretation of presidential powers.
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) were the first to rebel against Trump’s explanation that he needn’t consult Congress before taking the kind of action that he took in the Suleimani assassination. After a January briefing by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in which they argued for the president’s right to act without congressional approval, Senator Lee labeled the meeting “insulting,” calling it “probably the worst” military briefing that he had ever attended.
The other Republicans who later joined their colleagues in supporting the restriction of Trump’s presidential powers include Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), several of whom were considered part of the moderate wing of the GOP and who were being watched closely for whether they would break ranks during Trump’s impeachment trial and allow further evidence and witnesses.
While, unlike Senator Mitt Romney, none of these supposed moderates summoned the courage to see that the president was held accountable for his crimes, given that war powers resolution still hasn’t attracted a veto-proof majority in the Senate, they likely saw little downside in trying to at least partially offset their acquittal votes with support for the Kaine bill.
With Trump in full retaliatory rampage mode after his acquittal, however, it will be interesting to see how he reacts when the final vote is taken tomorrow and his solid wall of Republican support in the Senate starts behaving like the border wall in a windstorm.
Stay tuned for a presidential tweetstorm of fury shortly after the voting is completed and before the expected veto.
Original reporting by Daniel Flatley at Bloomberg News.