Iran Attack: Congressional Reactions

Congress was divided over prospects for war after Iran launched missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. personnel on January 8. Many Republicans lauded President Trump for standing strong against Iran by ordering the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Qods Force, on January 3. “All Americans should support President Trump’s efforts to resolve the threat from Iran peacefully and fully understand the Maximum Pressure campaign must continue with a credible military component,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Several Republicans also emphasized the need for diplomacy. “I applaud the president for deescalating the situation and putting us back on the path of diplomacy,” said Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Many Democrats urged restraint and blamed President Trump for provoking the attack on U.S. forces. "The president sometimes thinks that he can sort of stand up and kind of be a tough guy, and then everybody is going to melt. Well, the enemies of the United States are not melting. They're not going anywhere. I think it just makes it more and more difficult to try to end a confrontation like this," said Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). The following are reactions from U.S. lawmakers.

Speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 


Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

"We must remain vigilant in the face of serious threats posed by Iran. Apparently these strikes did not kill or wound Americans, but they demonstrate the significant progress Iran has made over the last decade in building a large, long-range and accurate ballistic missile force."

"I spoke to the president last night. I'm grateful for his patience and prudence as he and his cabinet deliberate how to respond appropriately to the latest Iranian provocation. As a superpower, we have the capacity to exercise restraint and to respond at a time and place of our choosing, if need be.”

"I believe the president wants to avoid conflict or needless loss of life but is rightly prepared to protect American lives and interests.”

—Jan. 7, 2020, in a speech on the Senate floor


House Majority Leader, Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

“Like all Americans, I am appalled and outraged by Iran’s attack against Iraq and our troops stationed there.  I stand strongly and firmly with our men and women in uniform, who are doing their jobs with honor and courage to defend our freedom and the safety of our country and its allies abroad.  I pray that our servicemembers are safe, and my thoughts are with their families waiting anxiously for news back home.  I am also thinking of the Iraqis and coalition partners who serve alongside our troops and praying for their safety. 

"This attack was a continuation of Iran’s aggressive effort to assert its influence and control in the region. But, in light of President Trump’s actions over the last few days, it was not unexpected. The President’s decision to eliminate Qasem Soleimani removed a dangerous promoter and practitioner of terrorism; sadly, the attack perpetrated last night showed that Iran will remain a constant threat even without Soleimani. 

“The President has said that he is seeking to stop a war, not start one. Let us hope that he and his advisors are able to deescalate the tensions that exist and put us at risk of war with Iran. Hopefully, today we will receive a briefing that will outline the Administration’s long-term strategy to deal with Iran’s belligerent and too-often-deadly actions while, at the same time, avoiding a war with Iran that the President says he does not want and the American people clearly do not want. 

“One thing that is clear: the President’s rhetoric and threats have not worked. His bluster and taunts have been unsuccessful in dealing with North Korea, Syria, or Iran. He ought to listen to experienced advisors rather than to those who would rush our country into war. The President and his national security team must develop a clear strategy to keep American personnel and assets safe while promoting our interests and securing stability in Iraq and throughout the region."

—Jan. 8, 2020, in an official statement


House Minority Leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)


Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)

"The president sometimes thinks that he can sort of stand up and kind of be a tough guy, and then everybody is going to melt. Well, the enemies of the United States are not melting. They're not going anywhere. I think it just makes it more and more difficult to try to end a confrontation like this."

—Jan. 8, 2020, in an interview with NBC News


Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)

“I hope the Iranian regime has learned a lesson. Today, the president laid out in clear terms the policies the United States has been pursuing and will continue to pursue against Iran’s unacceptable conduct on all fronts, from its attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon to its state sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East. I would encourage the Iranian regime to not just listen to the president, but to carefully study his statement in total regarding the path forward. My thoughts and prayers are with our brave diplomats and armed forces in harm’s way, and the families that support them. I applaud the president for deescalating the situation and putting us back on the path of diplomacy. We do not seek conflict, but the United States will not be deterred from protecting American lives and our vital national security interests.” 

—Jan. 8, 2020, in an official statement


Chairman of House Intelligence Committee Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)


Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 


Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)


Senator James Lankford (R-OK)


Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

“We are witnessing a dangerous escalation that is directly threatening Americans and American national security. I strongly condemn the Iranian government’s actions and urge its leaders to show restraint.

“We are at a critical juncture where we still have an opportunity to be responsible and pursue diplomatic channels; our nation has friends and allies who will stand with us. The American people are not interested in getting involved in yet another endless war in the Middle East with no clear goal or strategy. Now is the time to shore up our alliances. We must focus on protecting Americans, our assets, our allies and those innocent civilians who bear the burden of conflict.

“I look forward to learning more details from the Administration tomorrow at our classified all-Senators briefing. If President Trump intends on seeking further, extended military engagement against Iran he must first come to Congress, deliver a clear strategic objective and a plan to achieve it, and seek our authorization.  As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will ensure that Congress fully exercises our power and authority under the Constitution to conduct vigorous oversight of our nation's foreign policy during these chaotic times.

“Above all, I join every American in praying for the safety of our military members in harm’s way and for their families.”

—Jan. 7, 2020, in an official statement


Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)


Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)


Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)


Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

"My heart and my prayers are with our military and with our families in Iraq and all around the world."

"This is a reminder why we need to de-escalate tension in the Middle East. The American people do not want a war with Iran."

—Jan. 7, 2020, in a speech at a rally in New York


Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)


Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 


Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) 


Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY)


Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) 


Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI)

“I am closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East after Iran targeted American troops with missile attacks. My thoughts are with our brave American service members serving in harm’s way. Ensuring the safety of American service members and citizens must be our immediate and top priority.

“The President’s increasingly confrontational approach with Iran is escalating this already grave situation. It is my hope that this situation does not escalate further, which would put more American lives at risk. The President owes the American people a plan on how he plans to prevent this conflict from spiraling out of control.”

—Jan. 7, 2020, in an official statement


Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY)

“We look forward to the United States being unified behind the president … We will continue, certainly, as Republicans here in the House to be unified as a body as well.”

—Jan. 7, 2020, in a news conference with House Republican leaders


Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)


Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA)


Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)

“Cowboy diplomacy did not work in Vietnam. Cowboy diplomacy did not work in Iraq. Cowboy diplomacy will not work in Iran. We are hopeful that the administration will de-escalate this situation and that the president will move forward in a responsible fashion, working with our partners and allies, particularly as it relates to the European Union, to move the world into a better space.”

—Jan. 7, 2020, in a news conference