Creating new perspectives since 2009

For US Democrats, little recourse over Trump's Iran actions

January 6, 2020 at 8:33 pm

Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives Speaker, in Phoenix, Arizona, on 20 February 2018 [Gage Skidmore/Flickr]

US lawmakers have few options for tamping down any escalation by President Donald Trump of tensions with Iran, despite Democrats’ outrage over his failure to inform Congress in advance about a strike against a top Iranian military commander, reports Reuters.

Members of Congress begin to return from their year-end holiday recess on Monday, and Democrats said they will attempt quickly to pass legislation to bar Trump – or any future US commander-in-chief – from conducting a campaign against Iran without obtaining Congress’ approval.

Late on Sunday, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-led chamber would introduce and vote this week on a War Powers Resolution that would force Trump to stop military action against Iran within 30 days.

OPINION: Soleimani’s assassination has cornered Iran 

But with Trump’s fellow Republicans in control of the Senate and showing little inclination to break from their party’s leader, there is scant expectation any legislation could win enough support to become law.

Longtime foes Tehran and Washington have been in a war of words since Friday when Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport. The attack stoked concerns about all-out war if Tehran retaliates.

On Sunday, Trump doubled down on his threats to target Iran for any retaliatory attacks and Iran said it was stepping back from commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers.

Trump broke precedent by failing to inform congressional leaders before the attack on Soleimani, and by making classified his formal notification to Congress of the attack on Saturday.

The full Senate will receive a briefing at 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) Wednesday on the Iran-Iraq situation from top Trump administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, according to Senate aides.

READ: ‘Low point in US politics’ as Pence shares ‘crazy conspiracy theory’ about Iran

Pelosi on Friday had called for an immediate, comprehensive briefing for the full Congress.

Under the US War Powers Act, the president must inform Congress within 48 hours of introducing military forces into armed conflict abroad. Those notifications normally detail the justification for the intervention.

The act also bars a president from committing US armed forces from any foreign action lasting more than 60 days without Congress’ approval.

By making the War Powers notification classified, Trump limited lawmakers’ ability to talk about it, and sidestepped the law’s goal of keeping Americans informed about military action, some legal experts said.

“It may be informal compliance with the war powers resolution, but it is inconsistent with the general goal of providing transparency and information to the American people,” said Oona Hathaway, a professor at Yale University’s law school.

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to say his posts would serve as notification to Congress that the country “will quickly & fully strike back” if Iran attacks any US person or target, and that he had no legal requirement to inform Congress.

READ: US Congresswomen condemn Trump threats to bomb Iran cultural sites