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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 KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTed Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election MORE (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan Merkley Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night MORE (D-Conn.), and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate 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 DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Progressive group: Feinstein must step down as top Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (D-Ill.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge tosses land management plans after ousting Pendley from role | Trump says he could out-raise Biden with calls to Wall Street, oil execs | Supreme Court to review Trump border wall funding, asylum policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects  Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' 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.