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Senate to vote this week on limiting Trump’s Iran options

Iranian mourners carry a picture of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei General Qasem Soleimani, during the funeral procession in the capital. (SalamPix/ABACAPRESS.COM/TNS)

The Senate will take up a resolution this week intended to rein in President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran without congressional authorization, as Democrats and a small group of Republican senators push back following the killing in January of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“This is not about bucking the president,” Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said Monday. “This about making sure the process works as the Constitution requires.”

Lee is one of four Republican senators co-sponsoring the measure with Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, that would order the president to cease any hostilities against Iran, its government or its military without express authorization from Congress.

The GOP support will provide the 51 votes needed for the Senate to pass the resolution. The House passed a similar measure in January but would need to pass Kaine’s resolution for the legislation to go to Trump’s desk. The president is likely to veto it, and the Senate lacks the votes for an override.

“We’re likely to start the debate on Wednesday afternoon,” Kaine said. “We’ll probably have it done by Thursday.”

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Trump ordered a drone strike Jan. 3 that killed Soleimani in Baghdad. Some lawmakers, especially Democrats, have said the White House repeatedly shifted its justification for the strike.

The Senate measure, S.J. Res. 68, includes changes sought by Republicans who were frustrated by a classified briefing in January by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other administration officials. Lee said it was the worst briefing he had ever received on military matters.

Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky, Todd Young of Indiana and Susan Collins of Maine are also co-sponsoring the Senate measure.

With four Democratic senators — Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado — in New Hampshire for the presidential primary Tuesday, holding the vote late Wednesday or Thursday would give them time to return to Washington.

The House resolution similar to Kaine’s is sponsored by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat and a former CIA analyst.

The House also has passed other bills related to the Soleimani operation, including two in January from Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, both of California, that would defund military action against Iran not authorized by Congress. It also would repeal a 2002 authorization for the use of military force that the administration has cited as part of its justification for the strike on Soleimani.

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© 2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.