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Senator Tom Udall Plans to Force a Vote to Block Funding for War With Iran
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=47231"><span class="small">Alex Ward, Vox</span></a>   
Wednesday, 22 May 2019 12:58

Ward writes: "As the US and Iran engage in a weeks-long standoff, Senate Democrats are about to force the first vote on the question of going to war with Iran during the crisis."

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) speaks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 4, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) speaks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 4, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

ALSO SEE: Majority US Population Rejects Preemptive Strike on Iran

Senator Tom Udall Plans to Force a Vote to Block Funding for War With Iran

By Alex Ward, Vox

22 May 19

The effort could cause a massive partisan fight over Iran.

s the US and Iran engage in a weeks-long standoff, Senate Democrats are about to force the first vote on the question of going to war with Iran during the crisis.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it had intelligence showing that Iran planned to attack Americans in the Middle East. As a result, the US put an aircraft carrier, bomber planes, and anti-missile batteries in the region.

That, among other actions, increased fears of a major fight breaking out. And with noted Iran hawks like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Trump administration, the worry was justified.

To ensure a war doesn’t break out, especially by the US shooting first, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) plans to put forward a measure restricting the use of federal funds for any “military operations in or against Iran” without congressional authorization, according to the amendment’s text exclusively seen by Vox. The measure is co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a staunch critic of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy and long-time advocate for giving Congress a bigger role in authorizing US wars.

“Starting a war with Iran would be a catastrophe worse than Iraq,” Udall told me. “Some members of the Trump foreign policy team seem to be openly hoping to provoke Iran into war. Fortunately, Congress is a co-equal branch that has the sole authority to declare war — so we don’t have to sit around and watch this administration spiral us into another endless conflict in the Middle East.”

“Congress must remind this administration ... that no one else is responsible but Trump for putting us on this blind campaign of escalation with no off-ramp,” says Murphy. “War with Iran at this point would be illegal and an utter disaster that makes our nation less safe.”

The measure includes exceptions for the use of force, such as if there’s “an imminent threat to the United States,” if troops are deployed to prevent an attack on America, or if troops need to rescue or remove Americans from harm’s way.

According to Senate aides, Udall will speak about his amendment and then bring it up for a vote during a Wednesday afternoon Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussion about a Syria bill. That will force the GOP-led panel’s members to vote for the first time about going to war with Iran during the standoff, albeit behind closed doors.

“Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a chance to show that we’ve learned the lessons of Iraq, and that we are stepping up to take back our constitutional authority,” Udall said.

It’s a big moment, as voting on the amendment alone could be seen as a major rebuke to the Trump administration’s hardline stance against Iran — and could set up a tough partisan fight down the line.

The vote could further split Democrats and Republicans on Iran

It’s unclear if the amendment will pass. While all the committee’s Democrats will likely vote in favor of it, most Republicans on the panel are sure to reject it.

But Democrats hold out hope that two Republicans in particular might join their side.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a war skeptic who signed on to a previous Udall measure that does the same thing as the amendment, could possibly give a thumbs-up and buck his party. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), a critic of America’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, has championed Congress’s role in authorizing wars before they start.

Still, members of the committee have already expressed divergent views on the issue, signaling a divided vote to come.

After a briefing with Bolton on Monday, administration ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted, “It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq. ... If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response.”

Also on Monday Murphy tweeted that he too knows what the intelligence says. But he has a completely different take.

“I‘m listening to Republicans twist the Iran intel to make it sound like Iran is taking unprovoked, offensive measures against the US and our allies. Like it just came out of nowhere,” he said. “I’ve read the intel too. And let me be clear: That’s not what the intel says.”

In other words, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on just how imminent the Iran threat really is based on the intelligence alone. That only naturally leads to disagreements about how necessary attacking Iran may be.

If the measure passes, it would send a message to the Trump administration and specifically Bolton, who before joining Trump’s team called for regime change in Iran. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll still be good to have lawmakers on record about how and if to go war with Iran when the chance of conflict isn’t zero.

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+15 # DongiC 2019-05-22 18:18
That false tanker story about four Saudi ships allegedly attacked by Iran was as phony as a four dollar bill. Where are those ships now and what really happened to them? Are Bolton and his buddies behind this fake assault? Sounds like Sir Donald is getting desperate.
+4 # rivervalley 2019-05-22 20:58
War By Idiots, Inc. Between this campaign and the Venezuala Reveloution of a few weeks ago, the war crowd seems be about as competent as his cabinet - not very. Bush had a lot of intelligent war-mongers and assassins on his staff; Trump has the B team. Probably a higher chance of all of us ending up as collateral damage.
+3 # janie1893 2019-05-23 00:58
If Trump feels he will lose in his attempts to block all House activity, you can be sure he will invade Iran because then he will be a war president and thinks everyone will be distracted from thinking about his impeachment. Trump is a very dangerous and out of control
person who has far too much power and could destroy all civility in the western world for a long time to come.
+2 # tedrey 2019-05-23 05:58
The threat of war with Iran clearly comes from within the American administration.

+2 # hkatzman 2019-05-23 08:39

"The measure includes exceptions for the use of force..."

This president has been a champion of exploiting these exceptions to allow him to bypass Congress. Why abdicate even more constitutional powers without any checks? Once these laws are passed they can only be repealed with a veto-proof two-thirds vote.

Yes, there may be emergencies that need an immediate response, however 30 days is more than enough time for Congress to affirm what should be obvious emergencies. This should be a vote to extend emergency powers - a simple majority vote to enact a president's agenda, as opposed to blocking a president that needs 2/3 veto-proof vote.

Senator Graham, without arguing your interpretation of the threat that Iran poses, none of your scenarios are so imminent that Congress is unable to do its Constitutional responsibility to make a declaration of war.

30 days! Enough time for Congress to weigh in in any emergency and take on their Constitutional responsibilitie s.
+3 # elizabethblock 2019-05-23 14:35
Congress has the power of the purse. If they mean business, they should use it!