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Sanders and Rival Senators Pulled Off Trail for War Powers Vote

(Bloomberg) — 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 get congressional approval before committing U.S. troops to a military conflict with Iran.

The three presidential candidates weren’t present when the Senate voted 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 administration’s justification for the Jan. 3 killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. That action, and a subsequent retaliatory strike by Iran against a U.S. base in Iraq, pushed foreign policy at least temporarily higher on the 2020 agenda.

Race Accelerating

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 narrowly won Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary over Pete Buttigieg, with Klobuchar placing a surprising third. Warren placed a distant fourth and 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 Feb. 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 week before the Iowa caucuses.

The war powers resolution, sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, would bar U.S. troops from engaging in hostilities against Iran or any part of its government or military — unless Congress declared war or specifically authorized 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 Trump veto.

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

Iran Attack

Sanders has put a particular spotlight on the Iran attack. In addition to backing the war powers resolution, he sponsored Senate legislation that would deny funding for any military action against Iran not authorized 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.

For all three senators, the return to Washington comes at a critical juncture.

Sanders’ New Hampshire victory came just a week after his close second-place finish behind Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses, and he’s in the lead in two national polls out this week. He continues to trail Biden in South Carolina polls. At the same time, he is nearly tied with Biden in Nevada and 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% support in the RCP average in Nevada and a 2% average in South Carolina.

After the war-powers vote, 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 Thursday evening.

(Updates with Wednesday vote in third paragraph)

–With assistance from Daniel Flatley, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Emma Kinery.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at, Anna Edgerton

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