Congress once again abdicates its war powers

So this week President Obama Authorized Deploying Up To 450 More Troops To Iraq, in addition to the 3,100 troops already deployed in Iraq since August of 2014:

us-forces-afghanistan-AP-640x480In a statement, press secretary Josh Earnest said the military personnel will “train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.”

He added: “The President made this decision after a request from Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and upon the recommendation of Secretary Carter and Chairman Dempsey, and with the unanimous support of his national security team.”

In addition, President Obama is open to expanding the American military footprint in Iraq with a network of new military bases. Pentagon Weighing Opening More Bases in Iraq.

This “mission creep” in Iraq is occurring without the U.S. Congress having taken any action on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and Syria to combat ISIS.

As I posted back in May, When will Congress act on an AUMF for ISIS in Iraq and Syria?

President Obama has been conducting military operations against the Islamist terrorist group ISIS in Iraq and Syria under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 since August of 2014. He long ago exceed the 60 days for committing armed forces to military action, and a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization for use of military force or a declaration of war from Congress.

The administration and Congressional leaders additionally assert authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 (hint: not ISIS), and the 2002 AUMF against Iraq aka the Iraq Resolution to “strictly enforce through the U.N. Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq” (also not applicable to ISIS).

Congress left town in August 2014 to campaign for the midterm elections without taking up an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Congress refused to act on its own during the lame duck session after the election.

Obama Sent Congress a Draft War Authorization in February of 2015. Congress has failed to act on it. Congress is seeking to avoid taking any vote on sending American troops back into Iraq and to Syria, even though American troops already are actively engaged in Iraq, and as of yesterday, in Syria. Key ISIS Official Killed in Raid in Syria, U.S. Says.

Congress has entirely abdicated its war making powers under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Let’s be clear, there is no congressional authorization for the military actions the U.S. is taking in Iraq and Syria. None.

Republicans in Congress are in court suing the president for being a “tyrant” for provisions in the Affordable Care Act, and for his executive orders for deferrals of prosecution of immigration cases, but on the most fundamental power of Congress over war, Congress remains silent and allows President Obama to conduct a war in Iraq and Syria without any congressional authority and in violation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Congress has conceded its constitutional prerogative to the executive branch in the conduct of war.

On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tried to add an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would have forced Congress to vote on authorizing military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). House kills measure to force debate on military force against ISIS:

The House defeated an amendment to the annual defense spending bill on Thursday that would have forced Congress to vote on authorizing military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Congress has a responsibility to debate sending troops into the Middle East to fight ISIS militants.

“It’s worth having Congress do its job,” Schiff said. “If we’re going to ask our service members to risk their lives, we ought to have the courage ourselves to make a vote on this war.”

His amendment, rejected 196-231, would prohibit the use of funds for the Pentagon military campaign, also known as Operation Inherent Resolve, that conducts airstrikes against ISIS, after March 31, 2016, unless Congress passes an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) that specifically authorizes it.

[Roll No. 346. Yes: Gallego, Grijalva, Schweikert — No: Franks, Gossar, Kirkpatrick, McSally. Salmon, Sinema]

Congress first authorized $500 million in September for training and arming vetted Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. At the time, lawmakers predicted a formal debate on authorizing military force against the militant group after returning from campaigning from the 2014 midterm elections.

But that never happened. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) later said the White House should submit an AUMF to Congress for review.

President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF in February, but it has since stalled due to opposition from Democrats who fear the request is too open-ended, along with Republicans concerned it restrains the military campaign.

Boehner said last month that Obama should withdraw the AUMF and “start over.”

The White House has dismissed Boehner’s suggestion of going back to the drawing board on a new authorization.

“At some point, the Speaker of the House needs to take responsibility for fulfilling the basic duty of the United States Congress, and that is, when it comes to these kinds of matters, Congress should have a voice. And Congress, frankly, shouldn’t be ducking the debate,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

The Obama administration has been using the authority from the 2001 and 2002 authorizations of military force for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to justify the military campaign against ISIS, which did not exist at the start of those conflicts.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which produced the bill, warned that Schiff’s amendment would eliminate the existing authorities the administration is relying on to combat ISIS.

Once again the House has abdicated its war powers duty and conceded its constitutional prerogative to the executive branch in the conduct of war.

What about in the Senate? Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine introduced a bipartisan AUMF on Monday, as an amendment to the 2016 State Department reauthorization bill, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took up on Tuesday. 10 Months Into War Against Isil, Kaine & Flake Introduce Bipartisan Authorization For Use Of Military Force (Press Release).

The Hill reported, Bipartisan Senate duo offer new war powers bill for ISIS fight:

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced a measure on Monday that would authorize military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The measure, offered as an amendment to a State Department policy bill being considered this week, comes 10 months after the U.S. began its military campaign against the terrorist group in Iraq.

The two senators are hoping to revive the largely stalled discussion on the authorization, which has been hampered by partisan disagreement.

The White House sent over draft language for an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) in February, but Republicans said it was too restrictive, and Democrats said it was not restrictive enough.

The White House’s measure would limit authorization to three years and repeal the 2002 AUMF for the Iraq War. It would leave in place the 2001 AUMF that’s being used against ISIS and ban the loosely defined “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Kaine and Flake said they hoped their measure, which would sunset in three years and repeal the 2002 AUMF, would be a “starting point for debate.”

The Kaine-Flake measure has a clause making the AUMF the sole statutory authority for U.S. military action against ISIS. It would also specify that the “use of significant U.S. ground troops in combat” — except to protect U.S. citizens from imminent threat — would be inconsistent with the use of force.

“It’s inexcusable that Congress has let 10 months of war go by without authorizing the U.S. mission against ISIL,” said Kaine, who has been a leading voice calling for an authorization of force against ISIS.

“Our military has been waging war against ISIL since last September, and Congress has been appropriating funds to pay for those operations. It’s past time for Congress to formally voice its support of the mission itself,” added Flake.

As you might have guessed, “The two senators attached their proposal to a State Department policy bill, though it didn’t get a vote Tuesday as part of a Foreign Relations Committee meeting.” Kaine and Flake’s are pushing the AUMF on the sidelines of the Senate’s debate of a defense policy bill, where senators are also trying to bring up the measure. Kaine added he’s “really going to push, because we go to recess in July, and that will be a year of war,” though he acknowledged “it’s up to leadership.” Senators aim to jump-start debate on ISIS fight.

In my earlier post I asked why Republicans are steadfastly refusing to debate an AUMF for Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS.  “Why would Republicans do this, especially with a Democratic president whom they openly despise?”

Because Republicans in Congress are looking forward to the next time that a Republican is in the White House. Republicans do not want to relitigate the divisive congressional battles over the 2001 AUMF and the 2002 Iraq Resolution. Their current inaction on an AUMF for ISIS is creating a dangerous precedent for future presidents — Republican or Democratic — to engage in a war without even asking Congress for authorization. Neocon Republicans want this precedent for what they hope will be a Republican president in 2016, so that they can get their war on with Iran.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post arrives at the same conclusion. “I could be wrong, but I’m guessing more than a few Republicans don’t want a vote because the resolution could tie the hands of the next Republican president, who may want to invade six or seven more countries.”

2 responses to “Congress once again abdicates its war powers

  1. Congress hasn’t had the guts to perform it’s Constitutional duty in a long, long time. Unfortunately, that means we wind up involved with little “wars” all the time. Presidents like the power the Armed Forces gives them and they haven’t been hesitant to use them.

    The problem Obama is facing is that he is trying to send our fighters to train Arabs how to fight without understanding the nature of an Arab in a fight. He thinks he is dealing with an American/European psyche where the soldiers fight with an understanding of the importance of maneuver and have an inherent sense of commitment to the battle. Arabs see fighting as singular events and their sense of commitment is much more limited. We can train them until the cows come home, but unless we realize this inherent difference in psyche, we are wasting our time. Worse yet, we are risking the lives of our service members without any real purpose.

    So why is ISIS so effective? Because they play to the strengths of the Arab fighter. They fight a series of small set piece battles and genuinely motivate their fighters with religious fervor. It works well for them. What we are doing with our training hasn’t worked, doesn’t work and won’t work. When it does fail, Congress – who should be responsible – abdicates that responsibility to the President. Bless his heart, President Obama is trying to do something but he should demand that Congress fulfill it’s obligations.

  2. captain*arizona

    What do you expect from vietnam war draft dodgers and iraq war chicken hawk cowards ?