The Senate failed to pass an amendment Friday that would have forced President Donald Trump to seek congressional approval before going to war with Iran, leaving in place broad powers for the president to launch military action.
The Kaine-Udall amendment, which Senate Democrats rallied around this week, failed to gain the 60 votes needed to break through the chamber’s filibuster rules. The measure was met with opposition from Republican senators with few exceptions, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who supported it.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer touted the vote as proof that Trump should consult Congress on matters of war, given the widespread concern from lawmakers. The final vote tally was 50 in favor to 40 against the amendment.
“A bipartisan majority of the Senate today sent an important message to President Trump: you do not have a blank check to pursue another endless war in the Middle East,” Schumer said in a statement, indicating Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) would have supported the measure if he’d been able to attend the vote.
Senators who backed the amendment hoped the measure would rein in an erratic president who only a week earlier ordered ― and then pulled back ― a military strike on Iran. The amendment signaled widespread concern among Democratic lawmakers that the White House is on a course for conflict with Tehran, and that Congress lacks oversight authority to avert it.
Democratic senators pushed for the vote earlier this week by threatening to block the passage of a key defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, until Republicans allowed a vote on the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately acquiesced to the demand and set the vote.
It’s unlikely that the amendment would have neutralized Trump’s ability to strike Iran. The president, for instance, could have declared a national emergency in order to justify military action, or he might have refused to sign the defense authorization bill.
The vote began just after 5 a.m. and continued throughout the day in order to give senators a chance to return from the Democratic debates in Miami. But before noon, 40 senators had already voted against the amendment.
The relationship between Iran and the United States has broken down since Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions and military escalation. Tensions have risen to a crisis point in recent weeks, with the U.S. taking increasingly aggressive measures and Iran vowing to violate its end of the nuclear pact and begin stockpiling uranium.
Iranian officials met with representatives from the remaining countries in the nuclear deal ― The United Kingdom, China, Russia, France and Germany ― in Vienna on Friday as part of a last-ditch effort to save the agreement. As the economic benefits Iran hoped for as part of the deal failed to materialize amid U.S. sanctions, Iran has repeatedly warned that it has little reason to hold to the pact.
This article has been updated with comment from Schumer.
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