Senate Fails to Override Veto of War-Powers Limitation

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. speaks with reporters outside the Senate chamber last month. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate failed Thursday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution limiting his authority to take military action against Iran.

The Senate first passed the resolution in February to prevent Trump from using military force against Iran without explicit authorization from Congress. After the House passed the measure in March, Trump vetoed it late Wednesday.

Like other efforts Congress has taken to rein in Trump following perceived constitutional overreaches, the bid to override Trump’s veto failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate.

After the resolution passed 55–45 on the first time through the Republican-controlled chamber, the attempt to override the veto Thursday sank on a 49-44 vote.

The resolution came together after a strike Trump authorized in January that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. 

Before the vote Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged fellow Republicans not to override the resolution’s veto, calling Trump’s actions against Iran key to checking its power in the Middle East. 

“We must maintain the measure of deterrence we restored with the decisive strike on Soleimani,” the Kentucky senator said. “That starts today with upholding the president’s rightful veto of a misguided war powers resolution.”

Roiling tensions between Congress and the president over the authority to use military power, the strike drew bipartisan rebuke.

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., blasted Trump’s reasoning for vetoing the resolution, accusing the president of misunderstanding the scope of his powers.  

“In other words, the president of the United States is saying his powers are unlimited — as he’s asserted in so many other arenas — his powers are unlimited to go to war,” Merkley said on the Senate floor. “No, Mr. President, they are not.” 

In addition to the action itself, lawmakers were also broadly critical of the administration’s attempts to explain the reasoning behind the strike to Congress. 

A coalition of Democrats and some conservative and libertarian Republicans in the Senate have criticized some of Trump’s military actions as overstepping his constitutional authority. In addition to the Iran action, the Republican-controlled Senate has in the past voted to end U.S. support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen. 

Though the Constitution vests Congress with the authority to declare war, presidents of both parties have gradually taken more and more of that power over time. 

In a statement announcing the veto on Wednesday evening, Trump claimed constitutional and legal justification for authorizing the strike, saying the resolution “is based on misunderstandings of facts and law.” 

“We live in a hostile world full of evolving threats and the Constitution recognizes that the president must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response,” Trump said in a statement on vetoing the resolution. “That’s what I did!”

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