WASHINGTON — The Senate fell well short Thursday of overriding President Trump’s veto of a measure that would have limited his authority to launch military strikes against Iran absent congressional approval.

The chamber voted 49-44 to override the president – well short of the required two-thirds threshold – a day after Trump vetoed a resolution that he called “very insulting.”

The measure won bipartisan support on Capitol Hill earlier this year after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad without advance approval from Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged his colleagues Thursday to uphold Trump’s “rightful” veto of what he characterized as a “misguided” resolution.

“Iran has not let popular unrest, a mismanaged economy, or COVID-19 slow their aggressive meddling from Yemen to the Mediterranean,” he said during remarks on the Senate floor. “We must maintain the measure of deterrence we restored with the decisive strike on Qasem Soleimani.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., the resolution’s chief sponsor, conceded to reporters ahead of Thursday’s vote that the override would not succeed. But he said he was hopeful the measure had sent a message to Trump and would affect his decision-making in the future.

“Congress needed to stand up in a bipartisan way to make plain that this president should not get into a war with Iran or any new war without a vote of Congress,” Kaine said. “This is not about the president, President Trump or any president. It’s about Congress, and we should not be at war without a vote of Congress.”

The resolution first passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Feb. 13 on a vote of 55 to 45, and the Democratic-led House passed it, 227 to 186, on March 11.

In a formal statement released by the White House on Wednesday, Trump said Democrats were trying to create a wedge issue to divide Republicans ahead of the November elections.

“The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands,” Trump said in the statement.

He asserted that the war powers resolution would also “greatly” damage his responsibility to protect the United States’s national security interests and said the strike that killed Soleimani was legal under existing authorizations for use of military force.

“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,” Trump said. “That’s what I did!”

Speaking to reporters, Kaine took issue with another rationale included in Trump’s veto message – that the United States “is not engaged in the use of force against Iran.”

“That is lying to the American public,” Kaine said, arguing that the strike on Soleimani amounted to a use of force.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, defended Trump during remarks on the Senate floor, saying “this has been twisted around in a way to make the president look bad.”

“An airstrike is not war, and the president has made clear he doesn’t desire war,” Inhofe said.

Even during the height of the Iran debate earlier this year, few lawmakers expected the president would sign a measure into law that would considerably restrain his national security powers. But backers had hoped the bipartisan support for the Iran measure would send a message to the administration about Congress’s role in acts of war and begin to reassert lawmakers’ authority in such national security matters.

The Trump administration had given shifting explanations of the basis for the Jan. 3 strike that killed Soleimani, including that he had posed an imminent threat to U.S. personnel in the Middle East and that it was retaliation for an attack on an Iraqi base that killed a U.S. contractor.

A president usually has 10 days to veto a bill from Congress, excluding Sundays. But the actual transmission of the congressional resolution to the White House was delayed for nearly two months as Congress left Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to aides.

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