WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the U.S. must avoid war with Iran, and she declared the White House has “no business” moving toward a Middle East confrontation without approval from Congress.
Pelosi’s remarks to House Democrats came amid growing concerns in Congress over President Donald Trump’s approach to Iran and mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf region over the administration’s claims of unspecified threats linked to Iran. Top leaders in Congress are expected to receive a classified briefing from the administration on Thursday, but Pelosi said the administration has resisted a wider briefing for all lawmakers and congressional requests for more information.
"We have to avoid any war with Iran," Pelosi told her colleagues, according to a person in the room, who was granted anonymity to discuss the private caucus meeting.
U.S. allies involved in operations in the Middle East appear uninterested in the increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the White House and Pentagon regarding Iran.
Pelosi warned that the administration cannot rely on the last use of force authorization approved by Congress nearly 20 years ago for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since last week, House leaders have been asking for a classified briefing for lawmakers on the situation with Iran, but Pelosi said the administration indicated it couldn't come together "that fast."
"They have no business declaring a war without the consent of Congress," she said. "The very idea that they would say that they would use the authorization of the use of military force that is 18 years old" she said is "not appropriate in terms of its scope, its geography, its timing for any actions they might take."
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also warned the administration against any action without approval from lawmakers.
"Congress has not authorized war with Iran, and the administration, if it were contemplating military action with Iran, must come to Congress to seek approval," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in a statement at a committee hearing.
Menendez said the Trump administration "has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran." He said he has "repeatedly reminded the administration" of its responsibility to brief the committee.
Multiple sources said Wednesday that top House and Senate leaders of both parties — eight lawmakers in all — would be briefed by the administration. The sources were not authorized to discuss the matter and were granted anonymity.
Thursday's planned briefing for the "gang of eight" was scheduled after the U.S. ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq. The U.S. earlier moved an aircraft carrier and other resources toward the region.
The administration canceled a separate briefing on Iran that had been scheduled for Wednesday with the House Intelligence Committee, according to people familiar with the situation.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.