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U.S. Senate rebukes Trump, votes to limit Iran warmaking ability

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate backed legislation on Thursday to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war against Iran, rebuking him weeks after a strike against an Iranian military commander and Tehran’s retaliation raised fears of broader regional conflict.

Eight of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Democrats to pass the war powers resolution by 55-45. The measure would require Trump to remove U.S. troops engaged in hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or passes a specific authorization for the use of military force.

Trump has promised a veto and there is not expected to be enough support to muster the two-thirds Senate supermajority to override. Fifty-three of the 100 senators are Republicans who rarely break with the president.

Senators voted nearly along party lines a week ago to acquit Trump of impeachment charges, after an investigation and trial that underscored Washington’s bitter partisan divides.

Opponents said the resolution’s passage sent the wrong message.

“We need to send a message of firmness, and not weakness,” said Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, a lead sponsor of the resolution, said the vote showed strength and reflected the importance of Congress weighing in on the decision to deploy troops.

Even if the Senate cannot override a veto, Kaine said the resolution’s backers hoped it would influence Trump when it came to future military action, adding that the president cared about what the public thinks, if not the Senate.

“The bill getting to his desk is an indication that we’re listening to our constituents and we’re telling him blundering into another war would be a bad idea,” Kaine told a news conference after the vote.

The bill’s supporters also noted that they were gaining more support for their efforts to take back Congress’ authority to declare war. The Constitution gives that authority to Congress, not the president, but presidents from both parties in recent decades have expanded the White House’s authority to pursue military action without legislators’ input.

In June, another resolution that would have required Trump to get Congress’ permission before striking Iran failed in the Senate.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a similar resolution last month, also by less than a two-thirds majority. In addition, there are enough differences between the Senate’s version and the House’s that it must pass that chamber again before it can be sent to Trump’s desk.

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