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Why Trump didn’t have to veto the Iran resolution until Wednesday

Measure was not presented to the president until Tuesday

Sen. Tim Kaine spearheaded the Iran resolution the president vetoed on Wednesday.
Sen. Tim Kaine spearheaded the Iran resolution the president vetoed on Wednesday. (Shawn Thew/EPA/POOL)

It was almost two months ago that the House passed a joint resolution delivering a bipartisan rebuke of President Donald Trump’s Iran policy.

But the measure to terminate authority for engaging in hostilities against Iran or Iranian government officials, which had passed the House back in mid-February, was not actually vetoed by the president until Wednesday. The president has 10 days from the date it is presented to him to sign legislation or veto it, or else it becomes law without being signed.

So what happened?

“Today, I vetoed S.J. Res. 68, which purported to direct me to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces in hostilities against Iran. This was a very insulting resolution, introduced by Democrats as part of a strategy to win an election on November 3 by dividing the Republican Party,” the president said in a statement. “The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands.”

The delay was possible because both bills and joint resolutions must go through the enrollment process before being transmitted to the president. Those procedural steps involve having the legislative text printed on parchment paper and signed by an authorized leader in both chambers.

Since the House and Senate have been holding pro forma sessions with most lawmakers away from Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic, that process was not completed until Tuesday, which is the day the joint resolution was presented to Trump.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine led the legislative effort and modified the resolution from its original form in order to accumulate bipartisan support.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined in leading the resolution, which was able to pass the Senate with a simple majority under authorities outlined in the 1973 War Powers Act.

The resolution picked up steam after the early January targeted drone killing by the United States of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“Last year, in President Trump’s State of the Union remarks, he said: ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars.’ But instead of following through on his word, President Trump vetoed legislation that would help avoid unnecessary war in the Middle East,” Kaine said in a statement released after the veto.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in voting to override his veto,” Kaine said. “Unless there’s a carefully reached consensus in Congress that war is necessary, we should not be sending our troops into harm’s way.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will now need to schedule a veto override vote, which is likely to fall short of the two-thirds vote needed to override Trump’s veto.

Not content to simply veto the resolution, the president added some interpretation of war authority as well as some personal asides.

“The resolution implies that the President’s constitutional authority to use military force is limited to defense of the United States and its forces against imminent attack. That is incorrect,” the president said. “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!”

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