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 KaineGeorge Floyd's death ramps up the pressure on Biden for a black VP Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook employees speak up against content decisions | Trump's social media executive order on weak legal ground | Order divides conservatives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown MORE (R-Utah) are calling on their Senate colleagues to support a proposed resolution aimed at reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police 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 PaulDemocratic senator to offer amendment halting 'military weaponry' given to police Second senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungIs the 'endless frontier' at an end? Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas MORE (R-Ind.) have announced their support for Kaine's resolution. The Virginia senator said Tuesday that Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expected to visit Maine despite governor's concerns Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river 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.