War Powers Resolution

Replacing one war-happy President with another?

I’m often told by conservatives that in 2012, they would support literally anyone but Obama.  The basic suggestion is that Obama is so terrible, that a sack of oats would do a better job (Oats/Barley 2012!).  By not pledging my undying support for whomever the GOP nominates, then, I am in effect endorsing Obama.  Of course, many of these conservatives would change their tune if it were Ron Paul against Obama, but that’s not the important fact here.  What matters is the idea that any of the primary candidates would be better than the incumbent.

One of these wannabes is Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota.  While governor, Pawlenty established a fairly decent record.  There are a number of things that make him preferable in my eyes to his principle opponent, Mitt Romney.  Leaving aside his often infuriating pandering to social conservatives, Pawlenty, at least up to this point, has been one of the few mainstream candidates that I could find myself able to support.

But some comments he made on Tuesday have caused me to seriously question this position.  In speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, Pawlenty continued what has become a very alarming tendency to embrace the same reckless hawkishness that many conservatives have found themselves criticizing in Obama.  Perhaps the most troubling quote from the speech is the suggestion that he would only consult Congress as a “courtesy” when engaging in war overseas.  This is a position that makes him even more dangerous than Bush or Obama.

Republicans who whine about unconstitutional power grabs are going to let Obama go to war without congressional authorization

Back in July, before members adjourned for its summer recess, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama over his abuses of executive power.

The lawsuit is largely viewed as an alternative to impeachment and could be used to inform Americans on what the administration is going to get around Congress as well as its failure to enforce laws as they’re written. In an op-ed at CNN, Boehner defended the coming lawsuit amid criticism from White House and Democrats and expressed disappointment at President Obama’s “flippant dismissal of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, it looks like Republican leaders aren’t going to take a similar stand for the Constitution, which puts the question of war solely in the hands of Congress. The Daily Beast reports that the legislative branch may cede its power to the White House by allowing President Obama to use military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) without congressional authorization:

Only Congress can authorize military action: A stronger response against ISIS may be necessary, but Obama must seek approval

The United States’ airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is prompting some members of Congress from both parties to push for authorization for any further military action that President Barack Obama wants to take.

The situation is not unlike the push in the House of Representatives in August 2013 to put pressure on President Obama to seek congressional authorization against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-VA) penned separate letters to the White House, signed by more than 170 colleagues, in which they encouraged the administration to come to Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently told the Associated Press that, in light of the current situation in Iraq, he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily,” but said that such a campaign would need to be approved by Congress. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has also said that President Obama must ask Congress for further action against ISIS, something that has gotten under the skin of his Democratic colleagues.

Today in Liberty: Obama gives a middle finger to Congress on Iraq, GOP establishment may lose by winning in Mississippi

“I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men’s rights.” — Abraham Lincoln

— What dystopian country does Obama think he runs?: President Barack Obama says he has constitutional authority to send American troops to Iraq without congressional approval. “This action is being undertaken in coordination with the Government of Iraq and has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive,” Obama wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.” As a reminder, the War Powers Resolution doesn’t give a president carte blanche to bomb a country or deploy troops whenever he pleases. It lays out very specific conditions in 50 USC § 1541(c) under which the White House can utilize its powers: a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by an attack on the United States. The 2002 Iraq war resolution is, basically, irrelevant in the current situation, meaning that President Obama should seek authorization before sending advisers or troops to Iraq or approving military strikes against ISIL.

Legislation introduced to repeal the War Powers Resolution

War Powers

The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, was meant to serve as a check on executive power and keep constitutional authority to declare war in the hands of Congress.

The law gave presidents the ability to engage in military action only when there is a formal declaration of war, authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack on the United States. But the law has instead been used by presidents to expand their power by engaging in hostilities against countries that don’t represent a threat to the United States.

Hoping to return that constitutionally delegated power to Congress, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has introduced a measure that would repeal the War Power Resolution.

“The use of military force against a sovereign nation is an act of war. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the sole power to declare war,” said Garrett in a statement from his office. “Unfortunately, since its passage in 1973, the War Powers Resolution has been stripped of its original purpose and has instead served as a temporary, de facto authorization for the executive branch to use military force whenever it deems it necessary.

“Today, I am introducing a bill that would repeal the War Powers Resolution,” he added “Rather than permitting de facto military authorization, sometimes for up to 90 days, my legislation would return the power to go to war to its rightful place—the United States Congress.”

On Syria, Conservatives, and the Constitution

Ramesh Ponnuru

The discussion that has been taking place among conservatives on foreign policy is a welcome one. And though those of us who believe in a more constitutional approach to foreign affairs, perhaps best defined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), cannot yet claim victory, there are growing signs that we are gaining influence in the conservative movement.

The editors of the National Review yesterday half-heartedly the endorsed military action that President Barack Obama seems prepared to take in Syria, not because they agree with the White House, but rather that inaction hurts the United States in the eyes of our enemies. Yes, that is what passes for foreign policy in Washington.

This is the prevailing argument at the moment from conservatives who support intervention in Syria. Essentially, it’s a matter of pride. President Obama laid down his so-called “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad called President Obama’s bluff, and now conservatives worry that the United States will look weak to Iran, Russia, or any other perceived boogymen that are out there in the world.

But Ramesh Ponnuru, a columnist at the conservative magazine, offered a dissident take yesterday on Syria, noting that the arguments made by the editors of the National Review don’t make much sense.

Biden floated impeachment for unilateral military action in 2007

If only Democrats held the same standards by which they held George W. Bush, maybe President Barack Obama would think twice about many of his unconstitutional usurpations of executive power.

During a forum in 2007, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) told a crowd that he would move to impeach then-President George W. Bush if he bombed Iran without congressional authorization:

Biden spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 100 at a candidate forum held Thursday at Seacoast Media Group. The forum focused on the Iraq war and foreign policy. When an audience member expressed fear of a war with Iran, Biden said he does not typically engage in threats, but had no qualms about issuing a direct warning to the Oval Office.

“The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach,” said Biden, whose words were followed by a raucous applause from the local audience.

Biden’s criticism was completely valid at the time, just as it is today. He noted the limitations President Bush under the War Power Resolution, and pointed out that he had to come to Congress to get authorization before launching any attack on Iran.

This wasn’t a one-off comment either. Biden further explained to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews why impeachment was possible over an unauthorized strike.

A libertarian explains why she’s voting for Mitt Romney

While some conservative bloggers have tried to make a case for libertarians voting for Mitt Romney, they haven’t really been able to connect because they fail to understand where we’re coming from in our perspective on politics and public policy. However, Liz Mair, a libertarian who works as a political consultant and strategist, explains that she is voting for Romney, despite reservations about some of his policies:

Rand Paul slams Mitt Romney on war powers

Earlier this week, I noted that Mitt Romney had taken a view of presidential war powers that was even more troubling than that of President Barack Obama, who had taken part in a bombing campaign of Libya without congressional approval. Romney told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, that he didn’t need authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran.

For all the recent talk from our conservative friends about executive overreach by President Obama, Romney comments are perhaps even more startling given the potential consquences of unilaterally going to war with Iran, both from constitutional and foreign policy perspectives. And even though he has endorsed him, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) isn’t happy with Romney’s recent declaration:

I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:

I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.

This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.

Mitt Romney: I don’t need congressional approval to bomb Iran

Last year, many libertarians and conservatives criticized President Barack Obama for involving the United States in air campaigns in Libya to oust Moammar Gadhafi, the country’s dictator, without congressional approval. The Obama Administration claimed the authority to bomb Libya through an alarming interpretation of executive power that they said derived the War Powers Resolution and, thus, did not need approval from Congress. Interestingly enough, two of Obama’s top advisers warned that involving the United States in Libya would require congressional approval. Their advice was ignored.

It appears now that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has taken a page out of Obama’s book by claiming in an interview on Face the Nation that he could go to war with Iran, a frequent target of neo-conservatives, without congressional approval. Here is the revelant quote (emphasis mine):

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