WASHINGTON — Three of four members of Maine’s congressional delegation said they back measures aimed at limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to strike Iran offensively as criticism of the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general intensifies.
A House measure passed the Democratic-led House on Thursday. A similar one from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, faces an uphill fight in the Republican-led Senate, though three possible Republican defectors have emerged there. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is noncommittal, though she voted for a similar measure last year.
Pelosi, in announcing the House vote, called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani “provocative and disproportionate.” Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced the Democratic measure as little more than “a press release designed to attack President Trump,” noting that it has no binding effect and cannot be signed into law.
The House vote comes a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified. Golden and Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, voted for the measure on Thursday.
In an interview, Golden said he sees a broader problem in the “inconsistencies” of the president’s rhetoric about U.S. policy in the Middle East, since he has said he wants to bring troops home “yet he seems to be pursuing a strategy with Iran that is hostile.”
“When it comes to sustained conflict or war, Congress needs to weigh in and authorize that,” Golden said.
Golden and Pingree voted last year to repeal the 2002 authorization of war in Iraq that has been used to justify strikes in the region. Both of Maine’s senators — Collins and Sen. Angus King, an independent, backed a measure similar to Kaine’s on Iran that failed last year.
In a Wednesday statement, Collins said she met with Kaine to discuss the Senate version, but that she wouldn’t take a position on it until final text is released. King said in a Thursday statement that he was signing onto the measure as a co-sponsor.
“This is a bipartisan statement that Congress must reassert its historic and constitutional role in authorizing and declaring war, while still allowing us to defend American personnel against Iranian threats,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Soleimani “was traveling the region making plans to bring an attack against American personnel and American forces.” He said it was not possible to share full details of the intelligence with lawmakers.
Referring to criticism by Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, Trump said the two senators “want information that honestly I think is very hard to get” and “had to do with sources and information … that really should remain at a very high level.”
Lee, a conservative from Utah, said Wednesday the briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue,” in the nine years he’s served in the Senate.
Paul, of Kentucky, said administration officials justified killing Soleimani based on the 2002 authorization of force in Iraq, calling that “an insult.” Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, an ex-Marine, said he might join Lee and Paul to back the war powers measure.
Pelosi scheduled the House vote shortly after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani killing by launching missiles at two military bases in Iraq that houses American troops. No casualties were reported.
“Congress hereby directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war on that country or enacts legislation authorizing use of force to prevent an attack on the U.S. and its forces, the five-page resolution says.
Congress has allowed its war powers role to erode since the passage of Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001 to fight terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, and passage of another AUMF for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
Fallout from those votes deeply divided Congress and the nation, with many lawmakers, particularly Democrats, now saying they were mistakes. Yet Congress has been paralyzed on the question of whether to repeal or change those authorities.
BDN writers Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd and Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Deb Riechmann, Lisa Mascaro and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.