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Senate Democrats say they have votes to pass resolution limiting Trump's war powers

NBC News logo NBC News 1/14/2020 Rebecca Shabad and Frank Thorp V and Julie Tsirkin
Tim Kaine, Tom Udall, Tammy Baldwin standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Image: © Jose Luis Magana Image:

WASHINGTON — A revised version of a war powers resolution sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., that would require President Donald Trump to seek congressional authorization for any further military action against Iran has enough votes to pass the Senate.

Two additional Senate Republicans —Susan Collins of Maine and Todd Young of Indiana — came out in support of the revised measure on Tuesday, bringing the total supporting the measure to 51 votes, enough to pass. The modified version of Kaine's original resolution strips out language criticizing Trump.

"The Kaine resolution would continue to allow the President to respond to emergencies created by aggression from any hostile nation, including Iran, and to repel an imminent attack by Iran or its proxy forces," Collins said in a statement. "It also does not alter the President's inherent authority as Commander in Chief to defend our nation and U.S. forces abroad. It simply makes clear that only the Legislative Branch may declare war or commit our armed forces to a sustained military conflict with Iran."

Kaine's resolution, similar to one passed in the House, directs the president to terminate the use of U.S. armed forces against Iran unless authorized by a declaration of war or authorization by Congress except in cases where the president needs to defend the U.S. from an imminent attack.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah previously voiced support for the measure.

"We now have a majority of colleagues, Democratic and Republican, who will stand strong for the principle that we shouldn't be at war without a vote of Congress," Kaine said.

It's unclear when the resolution will get a vote as the Senate is set to take up articles of impeachment against Trump starting next week. All other members of the Senate GOP Conference are expected to oppose the measure if it were to make it to the floor.

Separately, the House adopted a slightly similar war powers resolution last Thursday, largely along party lines, with the aim of limiting Trump's military actions against Iran. This came amid heightened tension between the two countries after the United States killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi airbases housing U.S. forces.

If the war powers resolution does make it to the floor for a vote in the Senate, it would have to go back to the House for another vote. Trump would almost certainly veto the measure.

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