Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions

Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions
© Greg Nash
 
Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Republicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' MORE (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyInterest rate caps are popular — for good reason Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersDNC warns campaigns about cybersecurity after attempted scam Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Biden looks to shore up lead in S.C. MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Schumer: Trump coronavirus response marked by 'towering and dangerous incompetence' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday MORE (D-Conn.), and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms MORE (R-Ky.), saying they are "concerned' that escalating U.S.-Iran tensions will lead to a military conflict. 
 
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"We remain concerned that increasingly escalatory actions by both sides will lead to an unnecessary conflict. Given that growing risk, we want to reiterate that, as of this date, Congress has not authorized war with Iran and no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran," the senators wrote.
 
They added that they "expect" the Trump administration would come to Congress for a military authorization before they deploy forces "into hostilities or areas where hostilities with Iran are imminent" and stick to "legitimate principles of self-defense" absent congressional authorization.
 
"We request a joint Defense, State and Intelligence Community briefing by the end of June to address these policy and legal issues," the senators write.   
 
The letter to Trump comes after acting Defense Secretary announced on Monday night that the administration will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. 
 
U.S.-Iran tensions are running high after Tehran’s nuclear agency announced it will soon exceed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile unless Europe intervenes, and in the wake of an attack on oil tankers near the strategic chokepoint of the Straight of Hormuz, which the Trump administration blames on Tehran.
 
Senators are getting a new round of briefings from the administration, including a top State Department official meeting with Senate Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday. 
 
 
The letter to Trump comes as the Senate is expected to start debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this week. 
 
Paul, Kaine, Murphy, Merkley and Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Ill.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution MORE (D-N.M.) have filed an amendment to the bill to prevent unauthorized military operations against Iran. Some senators worry that the administration would try to use the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to cover a conflict with Iran. 
 
"No funds may be used to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran, against the armed forces of Iran or in the territory of Iran except pursuant to an act or a joint resolution of Congress specifically authorizing such hostilities," the amendment reads. 
 
With hundreds of amendments filed to the NDAA, it's unclear if it will be able to get a vote.