GOP leaders criticize Democrats over Iran rhetoric

Top Republicans in the House are accusing Democrats of playing politics with their criticism of President Trump's decision to take out top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and tracing the roots of the current crisis back to the Obama administration.

Since Trump announced Soleimani was killed in an airstrike last week, Democratic lawmakers have argued the president should not have acted without the approval of Congress and have voiced concerns about escalating tensions further endangering servicemembers, diplomats and other Americans abroad.

Republican leaders contend Trump acted correctly in the face of Soleimani's aggression toward Americans and on Wednesday House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) shot down the notion Trump’s decision to call for the airstrike required advance congressional approval, making the case the president acted within his constitutional rights to protect the country. 

“If it's in Iraq the president already has all authority to act. The president didn't need an AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) to act on this, this is more of an Article II thing, he was very clear in his actions where he went. I think all of America has to understand, too, there was a moment in time when the U.S. drone was shot down,” he told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Many of us thought actions should be taken at that moment, I thought the president was correct when he pulled back. He wanted to give pause, he wanted to deescalate the situation. It was Iran, who chose to do different. What did they do since? They killed a U.S. citizen, and they attacked our embassy. The president has all authority to defend us and he used that right to do it.”

McCarthy went on to slam the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy in the Middle East, arguing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal may have provided Iran's leaders with the resources that have been used against Americans and U.S. allies.

“I hope they [Democrats] pay attention to what happened in the last month. Maybe they were too focused on impeachment to see what was happening with Iran was doing to America throughout the world,” he continued.

“Maybe they should pay more attention to what happened when the billions of dollars from the last administration was sent to them and where the money was spent. Was some of that money spent and used and military weapons to come directly back at our men and women in uniform? I hope they ask that question first [at the House briefing on Iran].”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) blasted Democrats for their plans to bring a war powers resolution to the floor to limit the president’s ability to take military action against Iran without receiving approval from the legislative branch, going as far as accusing Democratic lawmakers of using “talking points that are coming out of Tehran.”

Democrats on Wednesday ramped up calls for a war powers resolution after Iran fired a barrage of missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops.

“We are a safer world because a brutal terrorist is gone from this planet, a terrorist who killed hundreds of Americans, and was planning to kill even more. And so it shouldn't become partisan,” he said.

“It's very disappointing to see some in the Democrat leadership here in the House trying to criticize those actions that kept America safer, using some of the same talking points that are coming out of Tehran. And now talking about changing the War Powers Act to further limit the ability for any president of the United States to defend this country.”

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of the most vocal defense hawks in the lower chamber, slammed Democrats who have argued the administration’s decision to go after Soleimani has made the U.S. a larger target, alleging Pelosi is ignoring Iran’s aggressions against Americans in the past.

“We also think it's very important for people to recognize at this moment the impetus on the part of some of our Democratic colleagues to blame the United States of America is unacceptable, we reject that,” Cheney, who is considering a Senate bid, said.

“As Americans, we've got to be united, and in particular, the speaker's assertion that somehow the activity that's going on in Iran is a result of action that the administration took requires a willingness to completely disregard the history of the last 40 years, and the attacks that have been launched against the United States and our interests ever since the Iranian Revolution.”

The lawmakers’ comments came shortly before Congress’ scheduled closed-door briefing on the situation in Iran.

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