Despite that intraparty clash, Lee and Paul joined the rest of the GOP in backing Trump’s move to pull the nation back from the brink of all-out war with Iran.
Even some of the GOP’s staunchest defense hawks applauded Trump’s restrained response to the Iranian counter-attack.
“A homerun speech by President Trump about the challenges we face with Iran. It was measured and firm,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s top allies in Congress.
Paul also said he was “pleased” that Trump appeared to deescalate conflict with Iran in his televised address.
“His instincts still are for not being bogged down in the Middle East in large wars,” Paul said. The Kentucky Republican added that “it would be a good time for us to bring our troops home from Iraq” and that it’s “an opportune time to reassess whether or not we have any kind of vital security interest in Iraq in particular.”
The broad GOP support for Trump’s efforts to cool the crisis — which he sparked last week with the Soleimani strike — underscored the reluctance among Republicans in Congress toward a wider war as well as their steadfast backing of Trump.
Standing in the grand foyer of the White House and flanked by military generals, Trump announced that there were no American casualties in Tuesday’s missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops and said that Iran appeared to be “standing down.” Trump made no mention of further U.S. strikes against Iran though he did say he would be imposing additional sanctions.
“The American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Trump said.
Before the speech, congressional Republicans were reluctant to get out ahead of the president but signaled they were ready to support whatever course of action Trump decided to take.
“I trust his judgment,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said during his weekly news conference.
Even Rep. Liz Cheney, a leading defense hawk and the third-ranking House Republican, softened her tone on Iran. The Wyoming lawmaker had called for “retaliation” on Tuesday evening, but on Wednesday morning, she noted there were no American casualties and predicted the GOP would be in lockstep with Trump.
“There are a multitude of options that we have,” Cheney told reporters.
So far, no Republicans have called on Trump to respond with new military operations against Iran. Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who spoke to Trump Tuesday evening, said the recent clash with Tehran “opens the door for negotiation.”
“I’m hoping we kind of let it rest where it is,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) “I think the point has been made and I think there’s a new paradigm now in the Mideast.”
Democrats, eager to avoid another messy war in the Middle East, also welcomed Trump’s decision to pull back. But they still want answers on Trump’s long-term strategy in the region, including the legal justification for killing Soleimani and whether there was an imminent threat. Democrats left a briefing Wednesday afternoon from key administration officials deeply unsatisfied.
Democrats are still determined to rein in Trump’s authority to use military force in Iran and are working to build support for a war powers resolution in the House.
“We’re all in the same place where we feel like we really need to reassert congressional authority,” Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told reporters.
Kaine argued the latest back-and-forth in the region makes his resolution “more important,” adding, “We got to get out of the cycle of escalation, and deliberation is the way to do it.”
Sarah Ferris and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.