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)
Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 8, 2020
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)
At my weekly press conference this morning, I told reporters there are a number of questions that the Administration needs to answer at today’s briefing on Iran, including what the long-term strategy is to deescalate tensions with Iran and promote stability in the region.— Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) January 8, 2020
“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)
“Peace through strength” —That was the Reagan doctrine, and that is the measured approach we are seeing from the Trump administration today. Thank you to our President and to our courageous troops for returning America to a position of respect and admiration around the world.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 8, 2020
Tonight we must be united in the fight against terrorism and those who would do our country harm. America’s full support is with our courageous service men and women standing the watch.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 8, 2020
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)
With reports of missile strikes launched by Iran against U.S. bases in Iraq, my thoughts and prayers are with our service members, diplomats and other personnel at risk, and with their families.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 8, 2020
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
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.”— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 8, 2020
The Maximum Pressure campaign with a credible military component is not only working, it’s the best way to achieve our strategic goals.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 8, 2020
In my view, retaliation for the sake of retaliation is not necessary at this time.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 8, 2020
What is necessary is to lay out our strategic objectives regarding Iran in a simple and firm fashion.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
All in all, just a massive national security fumble.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 8, 2020
Iraq turns against us, kicking out our troops.
Iran restarts their nuclear weapons program.
Operations against ISIS stop.
And for what? To get Iran to stop shooting at us - which they weren't doing when Obama left office.
Trump must now know his policy has failed. Badly.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 8, 2020
His escalation strategy has not deterred Iran.
But it has restarted their nuclear weapons program, shut down our anti-ISIS mission, and turned Iraq against us.
Trump must put our security before his pride and change course.
Senator James Lankford (R-OK)
Iran's aggression against the US clearly indicates that they continue to want to do harm to Americans & our nation. I am monitoring the situation tonight & I pray for all the service women & men who are defending our nation.— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) January 8, 2020
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)
President @realDonaldTrump made the right decision to order the drone strike eliminating Qasem Soleimani, ridding the world of a murderous terrorist leader and resulting in a strategic American victory.— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) January 8, 2020
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Iran claims it does not seek escalation or war. Now is our chance to let them prove it. President Trump should look at diplomatic options and remember that our greatest strength has never been our military might but our global leadership.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) January 8, 2020
We are in a precarious moment but war is not inevitable. After Iran's attack last night on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces, both sides need to find off-ramps to avoid conflict from spiraling further out of control.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) January 8, 2020
Closely monitoring reports of Iranian missile attacks on military bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) January 8, 2020
Praying for the safety of our men and women in harm's way.
All of us need to work to break an escalatory cycle to all-out war.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Our unique capabilities provide @potus time to assess the #IranAttacks & determine a response— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 8, 2020
Worth noting that we already have several indications that this attack may have been aimed at portraying strength inside #Iran while avoiding escalation against a superior military
.@POTUS has handled #Iran’s latest aggression very well.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 8, 2020
The U.S. was well prepared for this sort of attack & has no need to rush to decide the appropriate response.
We have a broad range of options available & will be patient & deliberative in choosing the appropriate one.
US was prepared for the attack launched tonight by the #IRGC @potus has a broad range of options available to respond— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 8, 2020
We will soon have a fuller assessment of this attack
Thereafter I am very confident he will pursue an appropriate response & act at a time of our choosing
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)
I am praying for the safety of our troops in Iraq tonight. While I would have preferred they come home long ago, there is also no excuse for this action by Iran.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 8, 2020
We need to stop the escalation before it leads to another endless war in the Middle East.
In the meantime, the Administration needs to bring any discussion of war with Iran to the American people and their representatives in Congress, as the Constitution requires.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 8, 2020
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
We need to use this moment to work with our allies to de-escalate this conflict and ensure the safety of our servicemembers and Americans in the region. pic.twitter.com/bRAdhtdzkK— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) January 8, 2020
As we await the casualty assessment from tonight’s attacks, it is vital that we take this moment to consider any response. A full-blown war with Iran is not in the national security interest of the U.S. or allies in the region.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) January 8, 2020
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)
A leopard can’t change its spots, & Tehran won’t change course overnight. They’ll continue using proxies to fight their battles. But they can’t hide—we know who their proxies are, and the United States will remain vigilant in the defense of our citizens and allies in the region.— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 8, 2020
Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
Trump’s bluster is not constructive in reaching a resolution. He scrapped a deal negotiated multilaterally with our allies, now he’s dragging those allies into the diplomatic disaster he himself has created.— Rep. Gregory Meeks (@RepGregoryMeeks) January 8, 2020
There’s a vacuum of sensible US leadership and everyone can see it.
Further escalation will only result in more casualties and accomplished little else. American lives do not need to be lost.— Rep. Gregory Meeks (@RepGregoryMeeks) January 8, 2020
The only way to win this war is to preserve the peace. I urge this administration to find restraint.
Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX)
“I am closely monitoring the situation in Iraq. Their ballistic missile attacks against Americans at bases in Iraq are simply unacceptable. We must take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our troops in Iraq & other Americans across the Middle East.” -LR @RepMcCaul— House Foreign Affairs GOP (@HouseForeignGOP) January 8, 2020
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)
This was supposed to be an address to the nation.— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) January 8, 2020
Instead, it was another embarrassing reminder of @realDonaldTrump’s absurd fixation on vilifying @BarackObama.
Making matters worse, it’s obvious this man cares more about appearing tough than keeping the American people safe. https://t.co/NnJVUA7nrQ
The nation is understandably on edge in the wake of this attack, but it’s a living nightmare for those with family deployed in Iraq.— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) January 8, 2020
The coming days will be perilous and deescalation is needed now more than ever. https://t.co/NHJG4Zpksj
Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA)
This is a safer world because a brutal terrorist who killed hundreds of Americans and was planning to kill even more is dead because of the bold action of @realDonaldTrump.— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) January 8, 2020
All Americans should be united against this evil. It's disappointing to see Dems try to make it partisan. pic.twitter.com/bIV0ol8Xwv
Tonight our nation stands with our brave men and women in uniform who are serving overseas on the front line. The United States will stand up to terrorists who want to kill Americans.— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) January 8, 2020
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
I stand with President Trump, who has been clear that the United States will not tolerate such action against our forces.— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) January 8, 2020