The Senate is taking a largely symbolic vote Friday on ’s war powers amid escalating tension with Iran, which some lawmakers fear could lead to another war in the Middle East.
The Senate convened at 5 a.m. to begin the vote, an unusually early time, to accommodate senators who had early flights at the start of the July 4th recess. The vote will be held open for several hours to give Democratic presidential candidates who attended Thursday night’s debate in Miami time to return to Washington.
Republican leaders said they have the votes to strike down a bipartisan amendment scheduled Friday that would block funding for military action against Iran if Trump does not first secure approval from Congress.
A handful of Republicans, between three and six, are expected to vote for the proposal, which is an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
But the amendment needs 60 to pass, and Republican leaders are confident they will defeat it.
The proposal prohibits using funds to conduct hostilities against the government or armed forces of Iran without a joint resolution from Congress specifically authorizing action.
Democrats insisted on a vote as a symbolic move to rein in Trump’s war-making authority and comes a week after Trump called off retaliatory attacks against Iran at the last minute in response to the downing of a U.S. drone.
“We were within 10 minutes of a war last week and the president is going around saying he doesn’t need Congress,” said Sen. (D-Va.), one of the amendment’s sponsors.
“We the Democrats stuck firm. We have to have this discussion before we move to the vote on the NDAA,” he added, predicting that all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus will vote for it.
Trump further raised anxiety on Capitol Hill when he threatened Iran with “obliteration” on Tuesday.
“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” he tweeted.
He called off an airstrike last week with only 10 minutes to spare after he was informed it would likely result in 150 deaths.
Senate Minority Leader (D-N.Y.) insisted on having the vote on Friday, when all members of his caucus will be present.
Seven Democrats traveled to Miami this week for the first round of the presidential primary debates and were keen not to miss a key vote limiting Trump’s power.
The Senate will convene at 5 am Friday morning and immediately vote on the Iran amendment. Vote will stay open throughout the day to give democrats returning from the debate a chance to vote.
Schumer and his Democratic colleagues threatened to defeat the defense authorization bill, which has passed annually for the past 58 years, if Republicans refused to give them a vote on the amendment, creating a high-stakes game of chicken earlier in the week.
“Americans including myself and our caucus is worried that president Trump will bumble into a war that nobody wants,” Schumer said after meeting with his caucus to discuss strategy on the Iran vote.
Last year, Trump joined the United Kingdom and France in launching more than 110 missiles against the Syrian government in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians near Damascus.
In an unusual arrangement, the amendment will receive a vote a day after the Senate approved the underlying defense authorization bill, which passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 86 to 8.
It will be the second time this year the Senate will vote to limit Trump’s war powers.
The chamber passed a resolution in March to end U.S. support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting against rebels in Yemen. Trump later vetoed the resolution
“We want to defeat it, it’s at 60 and so we know what the numbers we need are,” said Senate Republican Whip (S.D.), referring to the 60-vote threshold. “We know where most of our amendments are.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman (R-Okla.), who has jurisdiction over the defense bill, predicted all Democrats would vote for the Iran amendment and that a few Republicans will join them.
“I don’t think it will get 60 votes. I think it will have all of the Democrats. Democrats are disciplined, Republicans aren’t, we know that. And we know also that there are going to be a few Republicans that will join,” he said.
The two Republican co-sponsors are Sens. (Ky.) and (Utah).
Paul told The Hill he expects that between three and six Republicans will vote for the amendment.
That would give the amendment 50 to 53 votes — strengthening the message to Trump.
One test for Republican leaders will be to keep the vote to less than a majority, but that will be complicated by several Republican absences. Thune said Sen. (R-S.D.) is expected to be absent. So is Sen. (R-Ind.).
Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) has assured colleagues that Trump does not want to go war with Iran.
“Nobody is advocating going to war with Iran. Not the president, not the secretary of State, none of the generals. No one,” he said after meeting with GOP colleagues Tuesday.
On Thursday McConnell said that Trump is reviewing actions “clearly within the bounds of measured responses that have not been micromanaged by Congress in the past.”
He told reporters Thursday afternoon that he expects the amendment to fail.”I would love to have some Democratic support and I think this is an example of the affliction of Trump derangement syndrome. Whatever he’s for, they seem to be against,” he said.