Schumer Floor Remarks Calling For A Full And Complete Briefing on Iran And Supporting The War Powers Resolution

January 9, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor regarding the bipartisan consensus that yesterday’s Trump administration briefing on Iran was insufficient and called for a new and complete briefing. He also spoke in support of the Kaine and Sanders War Powers resolutions and regarding the need for Congress to serve as a check on the presidency over matters of war and peace. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks,  which can also be viewed here:

Yesterday, the Senate received a classified briefing for all senators from the Trump Administration on the recent military operations that killed Iranian General Soleimani. 

Nearly the entire Senate attended, but only 15 Senators were able to ask questions before the Administration decided they had to go. As many as 82 Senators were left hanging in the balance without a chance to ask their questions.

It was a sight like none I've ever seen in my time in the Senate. This is a crucial issue: war and peace. These were five of the leading people involved in the decision making, past, present, and future. If they couldn’t stay to answer questions in a classified briefing, that is the ultimate disrespect to the Senate. And I have to tell you it was not just Democrats who were upset, and not just Senator Paul and Senator Lee on the Republican side, who were upset. Four or five senators came over to me when, in that room, I made the request that they come back, and said please count me in on that.

As Secretary Pompeo was practically running out the door, I asked the White House representative if they would come back and finish the briefing. Pompeo said “no” on his behalf, but the White House representative assured me that the group would be back in short order. I said within a week. He said they will definitely come back.

This morning the White House told me that they would explore coming back. They’re already backing off, as usual.

This is imperative. We are asking—in as polite a way as we can right now— Democrats and Republicans, that these five leaders—the head of DNI, the head of the CIA, the head of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State—come before us within a week, and answer the questions of the 82 senators who were on the list and wanted to ask questions, but couldn’t.  The scene at yesterday’s briefing was unacceptable—as members on both sides of the aisle have attested. Eighty-two senators—chairs, ranking members, appropriators, authorizers—were snubbed by this Administration on a matter of war and peace. They must return.

Again, this administration’s thwarting of the exquisite balance that the founding fathers put in place—between the Congress and the presidency—is just something that would make the founding fathers turn over in their graves and strikes at the core of what America is all about.

And why is it important that we have this briefing? Well, because the danger of war is still very real. There seems to be a sense that Iran’s missile strikes on U.S. installations in Iraq, which resulted in no U.S. or coalition casualties, was a signal that hostilities between our two countries are de-escalating. If that’s true, that would certainly be a good thing.

But we all know that Iran has many different ways of causing trouble in the Middle East. Over the last decade, Iranian proxies have exported terror, fomented civil strife throughout the region. And we know that they may seek to strike the U.S. in many new ways, like through cyber-attacks.

Undoubtedly, there is still a danger Iran will retaliate for the death of General Soleimani in other ways. Not only in the next days, where it’s possible they could, but in the next weeks and months. In a speech yesterday, Iranian Supreme Leader said the Iranian missile strike was just “one slap.” “Such military actions,” he continued, “are not enough as far as the importance of retaliation is concerned.”

So we have good reason to worry that Iran will do more. Particularly given the fact that they are a regime that has many hardliners, who hate the US, and will try to do us as much damage as they can. And, for other reasons as well, the risk of confrontation with Iran has grown more acute. Some of it because of President Trump’s actions. At the president’s order, we now have at least 15,000 additional U.S. forces in the Middle East than we had at the beginning of last summer—15,000 more. The Iranian public, which only weeks ago was protesting its own political leaders, has rallied behind the regime and is directing its entire ire at the United States. Iran has also announced that it will no longer abide by any restraints on its nuclear program that were imposed by JCPOA, signaling its possible intent to pursue a nuclear weapon.

For all these reasons—that clearly, Iran is still a great danger, and the risk of war still looms—we need Sen. Kaine’s War Powers resolution more than ever. The president has made several erratic and impulsive decisions when it comes to foreign policy that have made Americans less safe, put even more American forces in harm’s way. More Americans troops are now headed for the Middle East. We’re not reducing our troop load, we’re increasing it. Iran is no longer constrained by limits on its nuclear program; and we find ourselves even more isolated from allies and partners around the world, who are shaken by the recklessness and inconsistency of the administration’s foreign policy.

The Trump administration cannot even complete a congressional briefing.

Congress, unequivocally, must hold the president accountable and assert our authority over matters of war and peace. That’s what Sen. Kaine’s resolution would do. We will have that debate here on the floor on the Senate and I urge my colleagues to support the Kaine resolution.

And there are many different ways that we can make sure that we don’t go into a war recklessly and without check. Sen. Sanders today is introducing legislation, of which I’m a cosponsor, that will hold back funding for such a war. And we Democrats will continue to pursue ways to assert our constitutional authority, and make sure that before the administration takes any actions, because so many of their actions tend to be reckless and impulsive, that they have to get the okay of Congress.