Pelosi announces war powers resolution as tensions with Iran escalate

Pelosi said "the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials."

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By Allan Smith

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the House will vote soon on a war powers resolution to limit President Donald Trump's military actions after he ordered the killing of a top Iranian general last week, escalating tensions with Tehran.

"Last week, the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues Sunday. "This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran."

"As members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe," she continued. "For this reason, we are concerned that the administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution."

She said the House resolution is similar to one introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

"It reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days," she said.

Last week, Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and other officials near the Baghdad airport. Soleimani's death came days after rioters sought to storm the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and a U.S. contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk.

Iran and its allies vowed to retaliate for the general's death, and Trump has since escalated his language in response.

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Meanwhile, Senate leader in both parties exchanged harsh words about the matter later Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., attacking Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasting the administration for its lack of transparency.

"Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before knowing the facts, rushed to split hairs on intelligence before even being briefed on it," McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. He said Democrats "downplayed Soleimani's evil while playing up our own president as a villain."

"Can we maintain a shred of national unity for five minutes before deepening the partisan trenches?" McConnell asked.

Moments later, Schumer, in his own Senate floor speech, accused Trump of engaging in "erratic and impulsive decision making" on the Soleimani strike.

“In my view, the president does not — does not — have authority to go to war with Iran," he added. "The American people need clarity that the Trump administration has a plan, not just a tweet, a plan to keep our troops, our nation and our people safe."

On Sunday, Iraq's Parliament voted to ask its government to end the presence of U.S. troops in the country, while Iranian state TV reported that Iran will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal — an agreement Trump withdrew from in 2018.

And in the Senate, Schumer and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote to Trump asking him to "immediately declassify in full the January 4, 2020, war powers notification you submitted to Congress following the U.S. military operation targeting" Soleimani.

"It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner," the senators wrote. "An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification."

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Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said members of Congress "will be briefed, but they should also calm down" and "celebrate" Soleimani's death.

She said it was "fine" for Trump to order an airstrike killing Soleimani without congressional authority, comparing it to former President Barack Obama ordering the mission to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Allan Smith

Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.