On Monday, President Trump stated that he does not need congressional approval for military strikes against Iran. Trump is wrong.
Congressional input on war is not optional, in spite of what the president thinks, and the United States is not a dictatorship. If the president wants to use military force against Iran, he needs to come to Congress and make a case for it. The Constitution is crystal clear: only Congress has the authority to declare war, and claiming sole authority violates the U.S. Constitution he took an oath to uphold.
The United States cannot afford to stumble into another costly and destabilizing war in the Middle East. This president has a responsibility to make a reasonable and responsible decision about putting the lives of the men and women of our military in harm’s way, and it is time for Congress to reclaim its Constitutional authority to make sure he does.
The president’s lack of diplomatic strategy is responsible for this self-inflicted crisis, and it started when he unliterally withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Instead, the president recklessly left an internationally-supported deal that was preventing Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons capability.
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It was a 60-word resolution that set the stage for perpetual wars and has been cited as the legal basis for military action more than 40 times in 18 countries – and those are only the unclassified incidents we know. Now, the president has threatened to use that authority to justify a war with Iran. That won’t fly with this Congress.
Last week, the House voted on a spending package that included my language to repeal the 2001 AUMF. This is a clear rebuke of the notion that Trump can bypass Congress before going to war with Iran. I reject endless war anywhere, especially when the president has no authority to wage it.
The news last week that President TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE ordered – and then abruptly canceled – an airstrike against Iran demonstrates how dangerously close we are to a military confrontation and shows his complete lack of strategy. The president’s comments about not needing congressional authorization on Monday were both disturbing and uninformed. Regardless of whether the president reads and follows the Constitution, the House must live up to its Constitutional duty to keep the executive branch in check and make clear that the president cannot start a war unless and until he gets congressional authorization.
The American people sent us to Congress to make the hard decisions. Under no circumstance should we abdicate our Constitutional responsibility in a matter of war and peace. This is a democracy.
Lee represents the 13th District of California.