Democrats Push War Powers Resolutions to Defuse Iran Tensions

The House this week will vote on a war powers resolution aimed at limiting military conflict with Iran following the Jan. 3 airstrike that killed Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Jan. 5.

“This action endangered our service members, diplomats, and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a release. “We are concerned that the administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.”

If passed, the resolution would stop military hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless Congress decides to green-light further action. Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA and Pentagon analyst who focused on Shiite militias, will lead the legislative push.

“If military engagement is going to be protracted—which any informed assessment would consider—the administration must request an Authorization for Use of Military Force,” Slotkin said in a Jan. 3 release. “If the administration needs additional resources, it will need to come back to Congress to request support. … Congress needs to understand the Administration’s plan as soon as possible.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who often pushes for Congress to overhaul its 9/11-era war authorizations after two decades of conflict in the Middle East, introduced a similar resolution in the Senate last week. The military could still act to protect US assets in immediate danger.

New war powers language has a better chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled House than in the GOP-led Senate. Meanwhile, key lawmakers are still awaiting more details on the reasoning behind President Donald Trump’s decision to go after Soleimani, a high-ranking official who masterminded terror plots via Iranian proxy groups. The country has vowed to avenge his death.

POLITICO reported Jan. 6 the White House plans to brief lawmakers, including the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate as well as the intelligence committee heads, on Jan. 8. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and CIA Director Gina Haspel will head to the Senate that day to discuss Iran.

Staff members on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees received a classified briefing on the situation Jan. 3.