Feb 14 2020
When the Miami and Wabash Indians attacked Americans north of the Ohio River between 1791 and 1794, President George Washington confined his military operations to only defensive measures.
“The Constitution,” Washington wrote, “vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore, no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.”
This was not humility or modesty. It was duty.
Under the Constitution, whose drafting he oversaw as President of the Constitutional Convention, and to which he swore his oath of office, the power to direct war resided with him as commander-in-chief. But the power to declare war resided exclusively with Congress.
To his credit, President Trump has largely followed this standard. His strategy against Iranian aggression is working.
Tehran has already had to cut back support for international terrorist organizations and its nuclear program; and its oil exports are plummeting.
Its economy has been crippled, contracting by almost 10%… and the Iranian people know it is the fault of their own leaders.
Tens of thousands of Iranian protestors have taken to the streets to protest their own government, even knowing that such action may lead them to injury, imprisonment, or death.
There may be a pathway to peace and prosperity for the Iranian people through sanctions relief and trade – if the Iranian government is willing to cease its support for radical Islamic militant organizations, and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ICBMs.
Until then, the U.S. – under President Trump’s leadership – will maintain maximum pressure through sanctions, and defend the U.S. from any further attacks.
I stand firmly behind President Trump in this course of action. And, like President Trump, I believe we ought to avoid war if we can.
To be clear, under the War Powers resolution we voted on in the Senate this week, the president would retain all his authority as Commander-in-Chief to take defensive measures against active threats to U.S. persons, assets – including our armed forces stationed abroad, and our diplomats in U.S. embassies – even without an AUMF.
But any offensive military action against Iran requires Congressional approval first.
Osama bin Laden is dead. So are the 9/11 terrorists.
Soleimani is dead. Iran is weakened and isolated.
Saddam Hussein is dead and has been out of power for a generation, and Iraq is a sovereign nation that can – and should – dictate its own course.
We now face new challenges, and our priorities have rightfully changed.
While this resolution speaks only to offensive action against Iran, I believe it is time to repeal the 2002 AUMF and bring our troops in Iraq home.
That is a question that we can and should address in this body.
But in the meantime, we as a body – and as a nation – should at least agree that there is no justification for further military action against Iran in the absence of a new AUMF or declaration of war by Congress.
This resolution is consistent with the president’s desire to keep us out of excessive, unnecessary wars.
It is consistent with the vision of our Founding Fathers, who sought to make it harder to enter into war by requiring express consent from a bicameral legislature.
And it is consistent with the conviction that the American people – whose sons and daughters lay down their lives to defend us – should get a say in the matter.