Tom Udall

Senate Democrats want GAO to probe Trump Independence Day spending

Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is among three Democratic Senators calling for an investigation into Fourth of July financing.(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee are asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate the costs of President Donald Trump’s Independence Day celebration and examine whether the spending is legal.

Appropriations ranking member Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland want GAO to provide a comprehensive cost estimate for all the events, including Trump’s “Salute to America,” which was the subject of criticism for its incorporation of military equipment, potential high cost and the possibility for an apolitical holiday event to be politicized.

DC to Trump: ‘Tanks but no tanks’
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says president is trying to turn July Fourth into ‘Bastille Day’

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, said modeling the Fourth of July celebration after France's Bastille Day is "not an American way" to approach the holiday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton forcefully pushed back on plans by President Donald Trump to include U.S. Army tanks in the Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall, saying that “can’t happen.”

Norton, along with D.C. officials, has expressed concern that the 60-ton armored vehicles could grind up the National Mall and restyle a patriotic “hometown celebration,” which attracts thousands of tourists each year and is broadcast live on national television, into a nationalistic presidential rally.

Both parties scored political points in war powers debate
Senate debate was feisty, fierce and principled — and transparently tailored for partisan effect

An amendment offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., spiced up debate on the annual Defense bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — The Senate’s debate last week on presidential war powers was substantive, serious and passionate — with the added benefit of enabling each party to score some political points.

The debate pertained to whether and how to hem in President Donald Trump’s authority to attack Iran amid heightened tensions in the Middle East that spiked this month when Iran shot down a U.S. drone and Trump pulled up just short of launching a counterattack.

Senate rejects efforts to limit Trump’s ability to launch war with Iran
The issue will likely be debated next month in the House, when that chamber takes up its own version of the defense bill

Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., right, and Tom Carper, D-Del., talk with reporters in the basement of the Capitol before the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Udall had offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have blocked President Donald Trump from launching a war with Iran without congressional approval. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Friday rejected an amendment to its annual defense authorization bill that would have blocked President Donald Trump from launching a war with Iran without congressional approval.

The issue will likely be debated next month in the House, when that chamber takes up its own version of the defense bill.

Senate sets new record for longest vote
Senators began voting at 5:02 a.m. Friday

Senators began voting at dawn and have made history as the longest Senate vote in modern history. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Friday’s prolonged roll call vote to limit debate on a Tom Udall amendment that would bar U.S. attacks on Iran without Congressional authorization made history as the longest Senate vote in modern history.

The vote opened at 5:02 a.m., to allow Senators with early morning flights to vote and then leave town for the Independence Day recess. It is being held open to accommodate the Democratic Senators who were in Miami this week for presidential primary debates. The vote was held  open for a total of 10 hours and 8 minutes, gaveling closed at 3:10 p.m. New Jersey’s Cory Booker was the first of the 2020 candidates to return, casting a yea vote just after 7 a.m.

McConnell says no to delay on votes to accommodate Dem presidential hopefuls
Democrats had pushed for delay to give senators involved in presidential debates time to get back

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want to delay votes on a defense policy bill so that Democratic senators can head to a series of presidential debates in Miami. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear Tuesday that Democrats are going to have to filibuster the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill if they do not want final votes this week.

The Kentucky Republican opened the Senate with criticism of Monday afternoon’s statement by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that defense policy bill votes, including consideration of a key amendment regarding limitations on the use of funds for war with Iran, should be delayed until after this week’s Democratic presidential debates.

Inhofe, Reed draw on professional, personal relationship in defense policy debate
Oklahoman Republican, Rhode Island Democrat find common ground

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe, left, and ranking member Jack Reed have brought the fiscal 2020 defense authorization to the Senate floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Maybe the annual Pentagon policy bill would have been popular regardless, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that the two members shepherding it on the Senate floor this week, Republican James M. Inhofe and Democrat Jack Reed, work together well as leaders of the Armed Services Committee and enjoy a genuinely deep friendship.

“I don’t think there’s two closer friends than Jack Reed and myself,” said Inhofe, the panel’s chairman.

Chuck Schumer wants Senate to vote on Iran, after the Democratic debates
New York Democrat: All senators should be present for vote on restricting Trump actions

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.,  wants all senators present for a vote related to Iran policy.(Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wants senators to vote on restricting the ability of the Trump administration to go to war with Iran, but he suggested Monday that vote should not take place until after this week’s Democratic presidential debates.

“One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into a war is to have a robust, open debate, and for Congress to have some say,” the Democrat from New York said on the Senate floor.

Schumer pushes for vote to make clear Trump needs congressional approval for Iran War
Democrats returning from a White House meeting on the same page about limitations of current authorizations

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is pushing for a floor vote to say that any military action against Iran requires congressional approval (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Returning to Capitol Hill after a meeting at the White House about the shooting down of an American drone, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer increased the pressure for a floor vote to make clear that authorization would be needed for military action against Iran.

The New York Democrat highlighted an amendment that has been filed to the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill led by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Tim Kaine, D-Va. The Senate is expected to proceed to the Pentagon legislation Monday evening.

Drums of looming Iran war resound in Congress
As NDAA debate begins, McConnell urges colleagues ‘to keep these deadly serious developments at the top of our minds’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged colleagues to keep Iran developments at the top of their minds. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is launching a debate on its annual defense authorization bill this week amid the specter of war with Iran.

It is not clear to what extent possible U.S. military strikes on Iran will play a role in debate on the $750 billion measure or, for that matter, in a separate vote this week on blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch foe.