Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of War Powers Resolution
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H. Con. Res. 83, to limit the President’s military action regarding Iran. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his leadership in bringing this important opportunity to express our concern about the President's actions. I salute him and thank the support on the other side of the aisle for this legislation.
As we know, last week, the Trump Administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high level Iranian military officials and he did so without consulting Congress. When I first heard from the Administration, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I said, ‘How – why did you not consult Congress in this change in approach?’ And they said, ‘Because we had to keep this close.’ ‘We had to keep this close.’
You had to keep it ‘close’ from the Gang of Eight? The Leadership of the Congress? ‘We had to keep it close because we didn't word to get out.’ Well, we deserve the respect from the Administration, and the Congress deserves by dint of the Constitution the requirement of the Administration to consult Congress.
We know full well, better than many in the Administration, the importance of classified information. We know that we're supposed to support sources and methods. We also know that the consultation that they would give to us does not enable us to divulge any information. So, who are they ‘keeping it close’ from? They admitted, this Administration, they were ‘keeping it close’ from the Congress of the United States. And they did so – now, they did a classified presentation yesterday, which their own party members, Republican Senators, said it was the most demeaning and worst classified briefing they had had. I myself think there's stiff competition for that designation of worst presentation by this Administration in a classified briefing.
But all of that to say, the Constitution of the United States calls for there to be cooperation when we decide about initiating hostilities. Congress has the right to declare war. When do you decide that it is war? When do you decide it's just hostilities? When does that all end? What line do you cross?
But with the President's actions last week, he endangered our servicemen and women, our diplomats and others by taking a serious risk of escalation with tensions with Iran.
This does not come with any respect for Iran. We know what bad actors they are in the world. We know that Soleimani, I from my Intelligence background, know that Soleimani was somebody that we do not mourn the loss of, a bad – he did very evil things in the world.
But, we also know that when we take an action, we have to understand the ramifications of it. Of it. Others could have taken Soleimani out. Israel could have taken Soleimani out, but they didn't. But they didn't. So that's happened – that's where it is.
As we go forward, it was really important for us to trust the parameters of the War Powers Act and, that's what we are doing here today.
The Members of Congress have serious and urgent concerns about the Administration's decision to engage – I use the term ‘decision’ loosely – to engage in hostilities against Iran, and it's about a lack of strategy. What is the strategy to move forward? Again, they did not consult with Congress. They gave a classified presentation, that by their own side of the aisle has been described as demeaning and the worst, and then they tell Members to go read the classified documents. Classified. Why are these documents classified? Why can't the American people know? We understand redaction of sources and methods and the rest, but if you read that document, you would know there is no reason for it to be classified. And without going into any substantive matters of what happened yesterday in the classified briefing, it's fair to say that we were told, Members were told to go read other documents, which are redacted and in many cases classified unnecessarily.
Our concerns were not addressed by the President's insufficient War Powers Authorization, which was classified in its entirety, leaving the Congress and the public in the dark about our national security. And our concerns were not addressed by the President, the Administration's briefing yesterday.
Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe – that is our first responsibility: to protect and defend; we must keep the American people safe – the House will pass a War Powers Resolution to limit the President's military actions regarding Iran. Congress is reasserting our long-established oversight responsibilities as we mandate that, if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration's military hostilities with regard to Iran must end.
We salute Congresswoman Slotkin for her leadership in this resolution. She's a former CIA and Department of Defense analyst specializing in Shia militias, who served multiple tours in the region, under both Democratic and Republican Presidents.
It's important to note because I heard the distinguished Whip on the other side of the aisle say, ‘How come it's just a concurrent resolution?’ It is because under the War Powers Act that is one of the options that is provided. You can do a joint resolution, House resolution or you can do a concurrent resolution.
The value and the beauty and the exquisite nature of a concurrent resolution is that it does not have to be signed by the President of the United States. The Congress of the United States, in its full power and full voice, can speak in a united way about what the War Powers Act should look like, and that should count for something to our colleagues who serve in the Congress of the United States. So, under the authority of the War Powers Act that gives us this option, we take this opportunity to do so.
I implore the Administration to work with Congress to advance immediate, effective de-escalatory strategy that prevents further violence. I also support this resolution because it does give opportunity for the Administration to act under certain circumstances, which are part of the War Powers Act.
Madam Speaker, in December, a group of us in a bipartisan way, we traveled to Belgium and Luxembourg to observe the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Some of our colleagues on both sides of our aisle had family members who served in that battle. One of ours, Annie Kuster, her father served in that, and she has letters from him at that time. And other Members on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Moulton, Seth Moulton, his grandfather served in the Battle of the Bulge. But also, on the Republican side of the aisle in the House and the Senate.
Why I bring it up is this. Because that Battle of the Bulge was the decisive battle in World War II. It was a surprise attack really by the Germans. It was a bloody battle; we lost 19,000 Americans – 19,000 Americans – in that Battle of the Bulge. When I was listening to the description of it on the days that we were there, from the veterans who served, it sounded almost like Washington crossing the Delaware because it was December, as it was in the United States at the beginning of our fight for independence. Their supplies were insufficient. The camouflage for snow was not adequate. Our veterans then, our men in uniform were exposed, nurses too, and it was a triumph that decided – that was very decisive in World War II.
Why I bring it up is because when there was the observance of it, three days, parts of three days we were there for it, but the close of it, there was a ceremony that included a speech by the president – excuse me, the King of Belgium, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg – two of the places where this all took place. The President of Germany who spoke beautifully about Germany now, and saying when you freed Luxembourg and Belgium you also freed the Germans. What a beautiful statement.
But the close of it was from a veteran who served in the Battle of the Bulge – in his 90's. He was a teenager in the war. We saw the foxholes in which they fought. They lost their comrades in arms. He talks about the brotherhood, and he talked about allies, and he talked about the fight. At the end of the speech, the veteran said, ‘I don't know if I should say this, but I will. My message to all of you is pray for peace. Pray for peace.’
That's what we should be doing is moving toward peace. Not escalation of hostility where that can be avoided. Not because we believe that the other side has good motivations or that Soleimani was not a bad person. It's not because of what they are. It's because of who we are as Americans, a country that is committed to peace and security and prepared to protect and defend, as President Kennedy said, ‘Fight any fight, fight any foe, pay any price to keep the American people safe.’ But to not be frivolous and cavalier about how we decide to show strength when it really is more of an escalation than a de-escalation.
So it's sad because you would think that any time we would engage in such an important change in approach that we would be working together, consulting together, respecting the approach that each side takes to all of this and hopefully just be on one side of it all.
So I think this is the – this is a very important, it doesn't do everything, you can say it doesn't do this, doesn't do that, we should never be judging legislation necessarily for what it doesn't do, but respecting it for what it does do. And what this does is very important for the security of our country.
I urge a yes vote and yield back the balance of my time.