Cover: TTF Visuals
On Wednesday, President Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution requiring congressional approval for the military use of force in Iran. Then, on Thursday, the Senate failed to override the veto coming up short with a 49-44 vote, meaning the veto stands. Seven GOP senators joined with Democrats. In response to the Trump Administration’s January 2 airstrike in Iran – which resulted in the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – both the Senate and House used authority granted by the War Powers Resolution to pass the bill in February and March respectively.
On the Left: Congressional Democrats worked to pass the resolution because of what they saw as executive overreach. Many Democrats (accompanied by some Republicans) felt that Trump’s decision to fatally target Soleimani was a risky, unilateral decision that would escalate tensions between the United States and Iran. Virginia’s Democratic Senator, Tim Kaine, introduced the measure to check the war-making powers of the executive branch. It called for the President to halt his actions against Iran “unless explicitly authorized by a [Congressional] declaration of war or specific authorization of use of military force against Iran.” Trump criticized Democrats for what he perceived to be a political maneuver to curb his executive powers, but Senator Kaine insisted that the measure was not exclusively directed at Trump as “it would apply equally to any president.”
On the Right: While some Congressional Republicans accompanied the Democrats on the resolution, most stood behind the President through what they saw as an effort to restrict Trump’s powers. Conservatives have also criticized it as a brazen attempt by Democrats to “score political points and undermine the action taken to eliminate [Soleimani].” Trump defended his actions by saying, “We live in a hostile world 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. That’s what I did!” Trump also pushed the idea that the resolution was a ploy by Democrats to divide Republicans in order to weaken his reelection chances. Upon vetoing the resolution, he chastised the Republicans who supported it for “[playing] right into [Democrats’] hands.”
Flag This: While the issue has certainly kept many constitutional scholars busy, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution solely grants Congress the ability to declare war. However, Article Two, Section Two explicitly makes the President the Commander in Chief, which has led to decades of confusion and constitutional debate over who has the true authority to declare war and take military action. The War Powers Resolution was enacted in 1973 to clarify each branch’s role, and to serve as a check on a president’s ability to engage in military conflict. However, presidents have still found ways around it since then, and they have often, ironically, been enabled by Congress itself. In terms of what’s next, the veto override attempt does not go to the House since the Senate failed Thursday. A two-thirds majority vote of both chambers is necessary. This was Trump’s seventh veto of his presidency. There’s only been 111 successful veto overrides in history.