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US Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Limiting Trump's Executive Authority

© REUTERS / Mary CalvertThe dome of the U.S. Capitol
The dome of the U.S. Capitol - Sputnik International
The US Senate has passed its own version of a resolution seeking to limit US President Donald Trump's ability to unilaterally make war against Iran via the 1973 War Powers Act.

The resolution* enjoyed bipartisan support, winning the votes of all 47 Democrats as well as eight Republicans who agreed that Trump should have been forced to seek the approval of federal lawmakers before ordering the January 3 airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
“The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East. And no matter who our president is, no president is smart enough to, on their own, make that kind of a decision without deliberation,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who introduced the resolution, told Politico on Wednesday. “The logic of the idea just gets more and more persuasive the more time that elapses after 9/11.”

Unlike the House bill that passed last month, the Senate resolution is binding, meaning it will be legally binding - but also that Trump will have the opportunity to veto it, as he has previously threatened to do. This is the second attempt on which the two legislative houses have united to try and rein in Trump's warmaking power; the first was last year's attempt to bar US support for the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, which Trump also vetoed.

McKnight Professor Emeritus on the Duluth Campus of the University of Minnesota James Fetzer, a former US Marine Corps officer, has offered his views on potential ramifications of The War Powers Resolution.

According to Fetzer, the majority of Americans welcomed the passage of the resolution by the US Senate, even though Trump has threatened to veto it, "where there may not be the 67 votes to override his veto".

"Nevertheless, it sends an important signal that the Chief Executive’s authority to bring wars absent Congressional authorization has Constitutional limits that are of growing concern—where he can expect any neglect in taking advice from the Senate will be opposed. Trump has committed several acts in the Middle East and at home that would have been far more worthy of consideration as articles of impeachment than those the Democrats chose to submit, which were unworthy on both factual and legal grounds. The President has the right to conduct foreign policy, by and large, as he may prefer, within the constraints imposed by the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and international law, which he has in fact now violated", the professor says.

Fetzer continues by stressing that those "improper" actions were not pertaining to the Ukraine scandal, but rather to Iran, as the US assassination of Soleimani "was a violation of the UN Charter, which only allows one nation to make a preemptory strike upon another when either it has authorization by the UN Security Council, on one hand, or there is an imminent threat, on the other, neither of which obtained in this instance".

The War Powers Act of 1973 was implemented in the closing days of the Vietnam War in an effort to block future presidents from unilaterally taking the US into a major conflict, as US President Lyndon B. Johnson did in 1964. While the law recognizes that the president has the power to deploy US forces into combat without a formal declaration of war, it requires them to give Congress at least 48 hours notice and establishes a 60-day time limit. Military operations beyond that scope require congressional authorization.

*This article has since been updated to reflect that the resolution is binding.

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