Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday said he expects the Senate will soon take up a resolution that would further assert Congress’ authority to declare war and would require President Trump to withdraw U.S. forces engaged in military activity against Iran within 30 days unless the U.S. is acting in response to an “imminent” threat.
Lawmakers are expected to take up the resolution, led by Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, just days after the Democratic-led House approved a similar, symbolic measure designed to curb President Trump’s ability to start a war with Iran.
“I don’t believe the blunt instrument of the war powers resolution is an acceptable substitute for the studied oversight the Senate can exercise through hearings, resolutions and more tailored legislation,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on the Senate floor Monday.
Lawmakers have shown mounting skepticism over the administration’s justification for the fatal Jan. 3 strike outside Baghdad’s international airport that targeted Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force. Most Republicans have defended the move, while Democrats — and some Republicans — have argued that Mr. Trump lacks the authority to unilaterally lead the country into armed conflict with Tehran.
Mr. McConnell said he will “strongly oppose” the resolution and cautioned fellow senators “to consider what message the Senate should send to Iran and the world at the very moment that America’s actions are challenging the calculus in Tehran for the better.”
“We appear to have restored a measure of deterrence in the Middle East, so let’s not screw it up,” he continued.
Mr. Kaine’s resolution has picked up some Republican support, most notably from Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have criticized Trump administration’s arguments justifying the Soleimani strike.
The Hill debate came amid intensifying protests in Iran after the government admitted that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner last week, killing all 176 people on board. The shootdown came just after Iran launched an attack on a military base in Iraq that housed U.S. troops, bringing Washington and Tehran to the brink of all-out war.
Just hours before Mr. McConnell spoke, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said he would introduce his own legislation supporting the protesters in Iran.
“The world is watching, and the people of Iran need to know that they are not alone in this pivotal moment,” Mr. McCarthy tweeted.
But lawmakers also continue to raise questions about the lack of information shared with Congress during the current crisis. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that the Soleimani killing was conducted without congressional approval.
House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, New York Democrat, slammed a decision by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to turn down an invitation to discuss the White House’s Iran policy at a hearing set for Tuesday.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that Secretary Pompeo will not appear before the committee tomorrow,” Mr. Engel said in a statement. “Each passing day raises new questions about the strike that killed General Soleimani.”
Administration officials have insisted the move was made due to an “imminent threat” posed by the Iranian general, but Mr. Engel said he questions the move could have been part of a larger operation after reports that the U.S. launched a failed attack on one of Soleimani’s deputies the same day. NBC News reported Monday that the Soleimani mission had been approved nearly seven months ago, heightening the questions about an imminent threat.
Mr. Engel has said he has not ruled out the possibility of issuing a subpoena for Mr. Pompeo to testify.
“With the wildly muddled explanations coming from the administration, the secretary should welcome the opportunity to make the case and answer questions before the American people,” Mr. Engel said. “The committee expects to hear from him soon.”
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