Wag the dog: Senate Republicans abdicate congressional war powers to their ‘Dear Leader’ on Iran

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The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a bipartisan amendment that would repeal the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), which provided Congress’s blessing to use military force only against nations, groups or individuals responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

The New York Times reports, House Panel’s Assent Gives Life to Effort to End 9/11 Military Authorization:

For the first time in years, Democratic and Republican lawmakers intent on repealing the authorization of military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are expressing hope that they can finally rein in a resolution that has been stretched like elastic to justify open-ended warfare against Islamist militants around the globe.

The move is the latest in a yearslong debate over whether to curtail the president’s war powers that has heated up in recent months as lawmakers fret over intractable conflicts. It has taken on new urgency as the administration has escalated tensions with Iran.

“You can’t tell me that we can’t debate and pass an authorization or not based on the new realities, the wars that we have been involved in without authorization,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and the lead sponsor of the measure. Ms. Lee was the only member who voted against approving the war authorization in 2001.

Her measure would repeal the authorization and give Congress an eight-month window to draft new legislation addressing continuing wars. A majority of current lawmakers were not in Congress when the authorization was passed, and they deserve a chance to weigh in, Ms. Lee argued.

Her effort, years in the making, has gained momentum in recent weeks after the administration sent an aircraft carrier, bombers and missile defense systems to the Persian Gulf region to confront Iran. In a closed-door briefing on Tuesday, senators questioned whether the administration would invoke force authorizations approved after Sept. 11 and before the invasion of Iraq to go to war with Iran. (More: After Iran briefings, Democrats in Congress want to know more, sooner). In a tense exchange during a hearing last month, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “you do not have the permission of Congress to go to war with Iran.”

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The measure is likely to face headwinds in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, could easily strip the provision from the version of the spending bill the Senate approves. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, threw cold water on the idea, and argued that the momentum the measure had gained in the House was all about limiting President Trump’s ability to respond to Iran.

“They pretty much want to take him out of that,” Mr. Inhofe said.

Things did not go as well In the Senate on Wednesday.  Senate panel rejects requiring Congress sign off before Iran strike:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday rejected a Democratic proposal to require congressional approval before the U.S. can take military action against Iran.

The panel voted 13-9 against a proposal blocking the administration from using funding to carry out a military strike in or against Iran without congressional signoff, according to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the committee.

Sen. Murphy and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said earlier Wednesday that they were going to bring up their proposal for a vote in the committee as an amendment to a Syrian foreign policy bill.

“Congress is a co-equal branch that has the sole authority to declare war – so we don’t have to sit around and watch this administration spiral us into another endless conflict in the Middle East,” Udall said in a statement.

Murphy added that Congress should “remind this administration that they do not have legal authorization to launch a war against Iran without our consent and that no one else is responsible but Trump for putting us on this blind campaign of escalation with no off-ramp.”

After the defeat, Sen. Udall offered a dire warning. US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess:

“It’s a very important amendment for the timing we’re in,” he said. “At the end of this week, we’re going on break. With this building up, there’s a huge potential for miscalculation. When we return, we could be in the middle of a war.

Members of both chambers leave D.C. at the end of the week for the Memorial Day recess.

“It’s important that we lower the level of tension and try to put this on the route that if they want to go to war, come in and tell us what your case is and why,” Udall said.

The amendment would block the use of funds “to support kinetic military operations in or against Iran unless such operations are specially authorized by an act or joint resolution of Congress that is enacted after the date of the enactment of this act.”

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The amendment would not have precluded military action against Iran in response to attacks or to rescue Americans. After the markup, Murphy said he knew some Republicans, including Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, would not support their effort, but he expected some more backing.

“I thought we would get a few more Republicans. It’s unfortunate that they’re lining up behind the president. The amendment doesn’t prohibit us from defending our troops, and it’s disingenuous to suggest that it does,” he said. “But if there’s going to be preemptive war with Iran, the president needs to come to Congress, and I don’t know why we couldn’t all say that.”

Udall offered the amendment shortly after getting back to the Capitol from a bipartisan foreign policy event that focused on getting Congress to reclaim its constitutional powers regarding declaring war, where the New Mexico Democrat was among the speakers.

“One day the president doesn’t want to go to war with Iran, and he wants to talk; the next he wants to annihilate an entire country. I think this Twitter foreign policy is erratic. It’s reckless and it’s dangerous,” Udall said in his speech. “But whether the president wants to wage war with Iran is not the question. The real question is whether [he] comes to Congress to seek a declaration of war against Iran.”

The luncheon where Udall spoke blocks from the Capitol was itself rather usual, as it was a joint production of VoteVets and Concerned Veterans for America, two groups that usually find themselves on opposite sides of political and policy debates.

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Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey (the ranking member on the committee) voted against the Iran amendment. Menendez sounded sympathetic to the intent of Udall and Murphy, but he warned that attaching it to this specific piece of legislation “would sink the entire bill.”

Iraq war veteran Arizona Congressman Rep. Ruben Gallego warns against war with Iran, says threat overblown:

CD 7 Congressman Ruben Gallego

After two intelligence briefings over the past week, Rep. Ruben Gallego says he believes the threat from Iran is being overdramatized and warned against waging war with the Middle Eastern country.

Gallego, D-Ariz., said the threat is real, but accused National Security Adviser John Bolton and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in a statement Tuesday of exaggerating the problem “in order to advance their policy goal of a military confrontation.”

Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, took to Twitter this week to call out his fellow politicians, warning others not to heed their advice. Gallego said he received the same intel they did, but his experience as a Marine in Iraq led him to believe the issue was not as dire as it was being made out to be.

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Gallego accused Cotton and Graham of misrepresenting the intel to push the country to war.

On Twitter: I get the same intel as Cotton. He is greatly exaggerating the situation to spur us to war. Don’t fall for it. Again Lindsey and I get the same intel. That is not what is being said. This is total information bias to draw the conclusion he wants for himself and the media. This is the danger of Cotton, Bolton and Fox News. Trump could easily be manipulated into a war.

“Iran is a bad actor in the region, but there’s also a lot of things that are happening in that region and if you wanted to see ghosts, you would look at the shadows,” Gallego said. “And that’s what a lot of Republicans were doing — they were pulling at pieces of intelligence and trying to create a narrative that advances their military goals.”

Gallego said he is concerned President Donald Trump will be persuaded to go to war if the intel continues to be misinterpreted. The president tweeted on Sunday, warning that threats to the U.S. would lead to “the official end of Iran.”

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Trump has made it clear that he doesn’t want to wage war with Iran. Gallego hopes the president will stand by that, but added that you never know with Trump.

Gallego said he believes the president’s minimal background in national security and foreign policy makes him far more susceptible to manipulation, and that could lead to war with Iran. But Gallego said Iran is a much bigger nation than Iraq, with a much more sophisticated military, and the country has been preparing for war with the U.S. for years.

“Obviously, we have to not be afraid if we have to go down that road,” Gallego said, “but we shouldn’t be jumping at the bit to go to war with a country that will be very difficult to defeat.”

Republicans view a war with Iran as a grand distraction from an impending impeachment, a costly trade war, an unpopular tax bill, and no legislative agenda to speak of other than destroying America’s health care system. The loss of American lives is just collateral damage to them in their morally bankrupt election strategy. And they are willing to abdicate their Article 1, Section 8 constitutional war powers to the raving madman in the White House who is surrounded by equally mad Neocon warmonger advisers.

I doubt that these Republicans have even considered a war with Iran could easily spiral out of control into a super power proxy war with Russia which engulfs the entire region, and encourages retaliatory terrorists attacks around the world. This is how the nations of the world miscalculated and stumbled into World War I. Republicans have learned nothing from history.