Bernie Sanders and rival Senators head to Washington for War Powers vote

Bloomberg Washington | Updated on February 13, 2020

Senators Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren will have to leave their campaigns to vote on a resolution that would require Trump to get congressional approval before committing US troops to a military conflict with Iran

Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders and his two main competitors from the Senate are being pulled off the campaign trail again to provide crucial votes for their party in a confrontation with President Donald Trump.

Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are returning to Washington for an expected vote Thursday on a resolution that would require Trump tot get congressional approval before committing US troops to a military conflict with Iran.

The three presidential candidates were not present when the Senate voted on Wednesday to move the resolution to the Senate floor with eight Republicans joining Democrats. Even with that bipartisan support, Democrats want as many votes as possible to send a message to Trump, who is sure to veto the measure. “I believe every one of the senators will be here,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.


The vote will give the senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president a chance to draw a clear distinction with Trump, amid bipartisan frustration with the administrations justification for the January 3 killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.


That action, and a subsequent retaliatory strike by Iran against a US base in Iraq, pushed foreign policy at least temporarily higher on the 2020 agenda.

Critical juncture

But it also takes the presidential candidates briefly away from their campaigns as the nomination race is accelerating, and after Sanders and Klobuchar, in particular, head into the next contests with some momentum.

Sanders won Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary over Pete Buttigieg, with Klobuchar placing a surprising third. Warren, who came in a distant fourth, is under pressure to perform well in the next two contests in Nevada and South Carolina.

Sanders also has overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls.

The three senators will be stuck in Washington, with the Nevada caucuses coming up on February 22 and the South Carolina primary a week later. All three also had to stay in Washington during Trump’s impeachment trial in the two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

For all three senators, the return to Washington comes at a critical juncture. Sanders continues to trail Biden in South Carolina polls and is nearly tied with Biden in Nevada. He is leading in a RealClear Politics average of recent polls of California, the most delegate-rich of the March 3 ‘Super Tuesday’ states.

Warren left New Hampshire without any delegates, and polls show her in third place in Nevada and fourth place in South Carolina. Fresh off her third-place finish in New Hampshire, Klobuchar trails badly in both Nevada and South Carolina. She has just 3 per cent support in the RCP average in Nevada and a 2 per cent average in South Carolina.

The resolution

The War Powers resolution, sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, would bar US troops from engaging in hostilities against Iran or any part of its government or military, unless Congress declared war or specifically authorised the use of military force.

The House adopted a similar resolution in January, but would need to approve the Senate version. Neither chamber has the votes to override an expected veto from Trump.


All of the Democratic presidential contenders have criticized the White House for repeatedly shifting its justification for the strike that killed Soleimani.


Sanders has put a particular spotlight on the Iran attack. In addition to backing the War Powersresolution, he sponsored Senate legislation that would deny funding for any military action against Iran not authorised by Congress.

One of his campaign co-chairs, Representative Ro Khanna of California, sponsored a House version of the bill that cleared that chamber last month.

What’s next?

After the War Powersvote, Sanders will travel to North Carolina and Texas on Friday, Nevada on Saturday and Sunday and then close out Sunday in Colorado.

Both North Carolina and Colorado hold their primaries on Super Tuesday on March 3.

Warren will hold a Thursday evening town hall in Arlington, Virginia, in advance of the commonwealth’s contest March 3, before venturing to South Carolina on Friday.

Klobuchar will travel to Nevada on Thursday evening.

Published on February 13, 2020

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