Iran War Powers Amendment Fails After Longest Vote in Senate History
Do you support blocking the use of military force against Iran?
by Countable | 6.28.19
(Updated 6/28/19) After a 10 hour and 8 minute vote that began at 5:02am EDT on Friday, the Senate brought to a close the longest vote in its history and Sen. Tom Udall's (D-NM) amendment to require congressional approval for a strike against Iran failed.
The 50-40 vote saw four Republicans cross the aisle to vote for the amendment, including Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Mike Lee (UT), Jerry Moran (KS), and Rand Paul (KY). A 60-vote threshold was required for passage.
The vote's unusual start time and duration was arranged to give Democratic senators participating in this week's presidential debates time to return to the Capitol to vote (they all voted "yes"), while also enabling other senators to leave the Capitol as soon as possible.
The previous record for longest vote was set on December 21, 2018, as the Senate held open a procedural vote aimed at averting a partial government shutdown for five hours and 18 minutes.
Countable's original story appears below.
Following the passage of the FY2020 defense and intelligence authorization bill (S. 1790) on a bipartisan 86-8 vote on Thursday, the Senate will take a rare Friday vote on an amendment to the bill that would prohibit the use of funds to conduct hostilities against Iran.
The amendment (#883) was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Mike Lee (R-UT). It contains language clarifying that it couldn’t be construed as restricting the military from defending themselves or U.S. territories and possessions from an attack, and wouldn’t affect a future authorization for use of military force that is subsequently enacted.
What are both sides saying?
Proponents say that adopting the amendment would prevent President Donald Trump from launching a strike against Iran that causes an escalation into a full-blown war. Trump recently ordered, then called off, a retaliatory strike against Iran for shooting down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran allegedly used mines to attack commercial oil tankers transiting the strait.
Detractors, including President Trump, contend that enacting this amendment would tie the hands of the executive branch in carrying out defensive activities and proportional retaliation.
They also note that the amendment would contradict the War Powers Resolution, which Congress enacted in 1973 by overriding President Richard Nixon’s veto to check the executive branch’s power to engage in military action. The War Powers Resolution allows the president to only commit U.S. military forces to combat with legal authorization from Congress, in response to a national emergency, or following an attack against the U.S. and its armed forces.
What’s the outlook for the vote?
Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle tried to negotiate an earlier vote on the amendment, but that was complicated by several Democratic senators absence due to their participation in presidential debates.
Thursday’s passage vote on the underlying bill saw six absences, including four senators ― Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) ― who will participate in Thursday night’s debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who was in Wednesday night’s debate, was also absent along with Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).
Friday’s vote is expected to open shortly after 5:00am EDT to enable senators to catch early flights out of D.C., and according to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will be held open for several hours to enable as many senators to vote as possible. Whenever the vote closes, the Senate will adjourn for the Independence Day recess.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: aeroman3 via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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