Democrats alarmed by 'massive escalation' with Iran, lack of consultation with Congress

Congressional Democrats are raising alarm over the lack of consultation from the Trump administration ahead of a deadly military strike against Iran’s top general, which lawmakers called “reckless” and a “massive escalation” against Iran.

The strike by a Reaper drone that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani caught lawmakers in both parties by surprise, leaving Democrats in particular angry over the lack of consultation and concerned about potential retaliation against U.S. forces and allies.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.) warned Iran could use its “global reach” to “seek retribution for this strike, endangering the lives of Americans around the world.”

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“We are now again on the brink of direct confrontation in the Middle East. Tonight’s action represents a massive escalation in our conflict with Iran with unpredictable consequences,” he said.

Suleimani led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and was viewed as the mastermind of Iran’s military and intelligence operations. He was killed along with Iranian-backed militia members as he was departing Baghdad International Airport.

While many Republican lawmakers put out statements praising the strikes, Democrats criticized the action for lacking congressional authority and further destabilizing the region.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) spoke to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on 0 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved MORE on Thursday night to get an explanation of the military strike after she received no advance notification from the administration.

Pelosi also released a statement saying the strike was not authorized and Congress was not consulted on the decision.

“The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran," Pelosi said in a statement.

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"Further, this action was taken without the consultation of the Congress," she added.

The military strike comes on the eve of Trump’s expected Senate impeachment trial, a parallel to then-President Clinton’s four-day bombing campaign of targets in Iraq in December of 1998, just as the GOP-controlled House was preparing to impeach him.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE, who is running for president, warned in a statement released late Tuesday evening that Trump had “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” and now needs to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” as well as U.S. interests at home and abroad.

The sudden strike sets up a debate in Congress next week on whether Trump needs to seek authorization to respond to expected retaliation.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (D-Va.), former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE’s 2016 presidential running mate, called on Congress to act immediately to curtail Trump’s military authority before he sparks another war in the Middle East.

“Trump’s decision to tear up a diplomatic deal that was working and resume escalating aggressions with Iran has brought us to the brink of another war in the Middle East,” Kaine said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal negotiated under President Obama.

“Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign has made the region less stable, divided us from key allies, and is driving our adversaries together. Congress must act to stop President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE from entangling America in yet another unnecessary war in the Middle East.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) warned that Trump’s “reckless strike” will “embolden hardliners in Iran, increase the likelihood of extremist retaliation throughout the region, and encourage more anti-Americanism in Iraq.”

“We have heard nothing so far from this administration about how they plan to deescalate this dangerous situation and prevent this from spiraling into an ever-escalating series of retaliatory actions,” he said.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicted that Soleimani’s death would lead to reprisals and chastised Trump for breaking with the traditional U.S. policy of not targeting foreign leaders for assassination.

He also challenged the president’s legal authority to conduct the strike.

“Now, it is up to Congress to press the president to disclose his legal basis for this action and the plan for how our nation manages the fallout. I doubt there is congressional authority for this strike, and I doubt the president has a plan for what comes next,” he said. “These are questions Congress must now ask.”

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Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (N.M.), another Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned Trump “is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without any congressional approval as required under the Constitution.”

“Such a reckless escalation of hostilities is likely a violation of Congress’ war making authority — as well as our basing agreement with Iraq — putting U.S. forces and citizens in danger and very possibly sinking us into another disastrous war in the Middle East,” he said.

Other Democratic presidential candidates also slammed Trump’s decision.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Angst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (I-Vt.) said: “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war.”

“Trump promised to end endless wars but this action puts us on the path to another one,” he said.