WASHINGTON — Neither Sen. John Cornyn nor Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday joined a bipartisan effort in the Senate to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran unless he first gets authorization from Congress.
The opposition from the Texas senators didn’t stop the Senate from voting 55-45 to approve the war powers resolution, with eight Republicans voting in the affirmative.
But the Texans’ stand helped make clear that the rebuke has no chance of withstanding the veto Trump has pledged to issue if and when the Democratic-run House approves the measure. It also marked another instance in which Cruz and Cornyn declined to buck the president, a fellow Republican.
“What I read this resolution to do is to try to tie the president’s hands,” Cornyn said. “We’ve all seen enough of how Congress operates to say that Congress doesn’t operate … with the necessary efficiency to deal with a national security crisis, particularly involved in self-defense.”
Cruz, in turn, said he was “disappointed” by the Senate’s vote, adding that he looks “forward to continuing to work with the Trump administration to make America safer.”
As the father of a Marine and as a Senator from a state full of active duty servicemembers, reservists, veterans, and military families of all kinds, this is personal to me. The list of war’s consequences is long, and those who serve risk everything. We owe them this. https://twitter.com/CraigCaplan/status/1228017434180931584 …Craig Caplan
Senate now holding the final debate on Iran war powers resolution prior to 1:45pm final passage vote.
The resolution’s passage nevertheless highlighted a fresh friction point between Trump and Congress, just over a week after the GOP-run Senate, including Cruz and Cornyn, voted to acquit the president in a contentious impeachment trial over his Ukraine dealings.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., authored the war powers resolution in the wake of the Trump administration in January conducting an airstrike to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a military leader that the U.S. blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans.
The attack, which occurred in Iraq, raised the prospect of an all-out war with Iran, though the country has stood down since launching a counter-strike against a couple of U.S. military bases in Iraq.
While most all Republican and Democratic lawmakers have agreed that Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, was an evil adversary who will not be missed, there has been disagreement over how the attack was carried out and under what authority it occurred.
Kaine, whose oldest son is a Marine, said he wanted to send the message that there should be “careful deliberation” about going to war.
“It’s deeply unfair to our troops to allow perpetual war to continue on autopilot,” he wrote on Twitter. “Our resolution says: No war unless you come and make the case to Congress first. If we’re not even willing to have that debate, we shouldn’t be forcing people to risk their lives.”
Donald J. Trump
It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani….
Kaine is something of a rarity in Congress, in that his view on war powers has been consistent under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Other lawmakers have tended to shift their positions on constraining a president’s military authority, depending in part on whether the commander in chief shares their political affiliation. That tendency has been true for both Democrats and Republicans, including both Cornyn and Cruz.
Cruz in 2014, for instance, argued that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, needed to come to Congress for authorization to take on ISIS in Syria.
“The value of doing it, aside from honoring the Constitution, it forces the president to articulate a clear military objective that is tied to national security,” he said on Fox News at the time, adding that Obama didn’t seem to be making the case then that there was an imminent threat.
This time around, Kaine won over some Republicans with his track record on the issue, along with some efforts to make the resolution less about Trump and more about the executive branch itself.
Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee voted for the resolution, with most citing a desire for Congress to reclaim its constitutional role.
“Today’s vote is not a vote for or against the current president,” Paul wrote on Twitter ahead of the vote. “Today’s vote is for or against the constitution. Either you believe that war requires the permission of Congress or you don’t.”
Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, criticized Cornyn and Cruz for “voting against their fellow Republicans and voting against a bipartisan effort to limit Trump’s ability for war with Iran.”
“Cornyn and Cruz have proven they are willing to risk war with no end in sight,” he said. “Texans deserve senators who will stand up to Trump and put the interest of Texans first.”
Cornyn’s vote also drew criticism from MJ Hegar, a Round Rock Air Force veteran who is among the several Democrats vying to take on the Republican in the general election.
“This vote against the bipartisan invocation of the War Powers Act shows that John Cornyn is more interested in showing his loyalty to his political allies than to our men and women in uniform,” she said in a news release.
Congress and the White House have long had a tug-of-war over war powers.
While Congress maintains the constitutional authority to declare war, it has not formally made that kind of declaration since World War II. More recent campaigns, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been done under what is called an authorization for use of military force.
Cornyn said he would be “happy to debate” a new authorization for use of military force. But he said Kaine’s resolution was not the answer, while also casting the measure as an unfair jab at the president.
“I do believe some of our Democratic friends are simply wrong in claiming what the president did in taking out General Soleimani exceeded his authority,” he said. “It was justified.”
Cruz also argued that Soleimani posed an “an imminent threat.”
“Under the Constitution, if the president wanted to engage in sustained military conflict with Iran, he would need to come to Congress and make his case to the American people,” he said in a news release. “But that’s not what the president did, and that’s not what the Senate voted on today.”
He also highlighted how he succeeded in inserting language into the measure that commended the U.S. military and its intelligence partners, along with Trump, for taking out Soleimani.
Kaine objected to that tweak. The Democrat said he and others are “all glad General Soleimani is dead — that is good for the world.” But he was quick to point out that “there are legitimate questions about the operation” that led to the Iranian’s death.
One of Cruz’s Republican colleagues, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, dismissed Kaine’s take as “just a continuation of this animosity toward this president.” The amendment passed 64-34, with 10 Democrats and one independent joining every Republican in voting for the change.
The House is expected to pass the overarching resolution in the coming weeks, but Trump has already vowed to veto it.
“We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness,” the president wrote this week on Twitter. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.”
Trump took the same course when Congress in April approved a war powers resolution in relation to an ongoing conflict in Yemen, another Middle Eastern country.