Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it'

Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it'
© Greg Nash

Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (R-Utah) are calling on their Senate colleagues to support a proposed resolution aimed at reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE's war powers against Iran.

In a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday, the two argued that Congress has shirked its responsibility far too often when it comes to "proper use of force to meet global threats."

In the face of this history, the senators urged their colleagues to change this trend and back a resolution that would prohibit war with Iran without congressional authorization. 

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"Our resolution puts a simple statement before the Senate," writes Lee and Kaine, who is also the resolution's author.

"We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it. If senators are unwilling to have this debate — because a war vote is hard or opinion polls suggest that their vote might be unpopular — how dare we order our troops to courageously serve and risk all?"

The message comes just a day after Kaine told reporters that he gained the necessary Republican votes to pass an amended version of his resolution. Kaine is seeking to move forward with the measure amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran and as lawmakers voice frustrations over the lack of information the Trump administration has provided them. 

In their essay, Kaine and Lee point to the authors of the Constitution to justify their stance on Congress's role in matters related to war. They note that James Madison, the principal drafter of the Constitution, wrote that the executive branch is “most interested in war, & most prone to it” and that the Constitution, “ 'with studied care, vested the question of war' in the legislature."

They also denounced the Trump administration for being "infuriatingly dismissive of the role of Congress" during a briefing last week about the airstrike Trump ordered that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

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Officials suggested "that congressional debate might hurt the morale of U.S. troops," the two wrote.

"They have it backward. Congressional debate and deliberation are designed precisely to protect our troops and their families," they write, pointing to the 18 years of continuous war in the Middle East. "If the United States is to order our troops into harm’s way again, we should at least have an open debate about whether a war with Iran, or indeed any war, is truly in our national interest."

Lee, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ind.) have announced their support for Kaine's resolution. The Virginia senator said Tuesday that Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Trump's team rests, calls for quick end to trial MORE (R-Maine) would also endorse it. 

If it passes the Senate, the House would also need to approve the resolution before it could be sent to the White House, where Trump would be expected to veto it.