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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: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Biden administration to give Congress full classified briefing on Syria strikes by next week Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Utah) are calling on their Senate colleagues to support a proposed resolution aimed at reining in President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged 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 PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era MORE (R-Ind.) have announced their support for Kaine's resolution. The Virginia senator said Tuesday that Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars 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.