Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates

Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates
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Earlier this month, the House passed the War Powers Resolution aimed at preventing the president from escalating conflict with Iran. The resolution passed the House in a party-line vote. Only eight Democrats came out against it. All eight represent swing districts where the president maintains some popularity. 

Two have something else in common: they’re combat veterans. Reps. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaThe Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D-Va.) and Max RoseMax RoseMax Rose calls on Trump to use Defense Production Act to ensure small businesses have PPE 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic House Democrat to introduce legislation allowing governors to extend National Guard deployments MORE (D-N.Y.) recently told the New York Times that their experience in the Middle East informed their vote against the War Powers Resolution. 

They argued that the Resolution would have no impact and urged Congress to focus on updating the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the A.U.M.F. The A.U.M.F. authorized the fight against terrorism after 9/11 and has been used as grounds for the U.S. war against ISIS, which didn’t exist when A.U.M.F. was written. 

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Luria and Rose have an intimate experience with A.U.M.F; both were deployed during the War on Terror. And their stance on war powers highlights the importance of having veterans in Congress. Veteran lawmakers have been shown to help reign in military action by the executive branch

Veteran candidates received a slew of media attention in the 2018 midterm cycle; 2018’s freshman class of Congress members included more veterans than any class last decade. This group was vital to helping Democrats take back the House. Lawmakers like Luria and Rose flipped districts from red to blue using their status as veterans and moderate Democrats to their advantage. 

But not all Democratic veterans are moderate. In deep-blue NY-17, where long-serving Congresswoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia House-passed relief bill excludes lobbyists from Paycheck Protection Program House defeats effort to prevent stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE will not run for re-election, at least 10 candidates are vying for an open seat. One is the U.S. 

Army veteran Asha Castleberry-Hernandez. Like Luria and Rose, Castleberry-Hernandez also served during the War on Terror. She told us that recruiting more progressive; Democratic veterans should be a goal for the party. Progressives with a military background challenge the long-held stereotype that all vets lean conservative.

When we interviewed Castleberry-Hernandez about her service, she told us that “during a time like this where we are on the brink of war with Iran...the public is more aware of the need for their representatives to understand foreign policy and the military.” 

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When asked whether she would have voted for the War Powers Resolution, her answer was yes, “to send an urgent message to the president” and take immediate action.

The War Powers Resolution was sponsored by Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHuman Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus States see surge of scams, price-gouging tied to pandemic MORE (D-Mich.), who worked on Middle East Affairs in the CIA and the Defense Department. Her district has a large veteran population, and she used her military background as justification for the War Powers Resolution. Rose called this “playing politics.”

International conflict is one of the few things breaking through the impeachment and presidential election news this month. Whatever their ideological leanings, Democratic veterans and those with foreign policy experience are finding their place in the 2020 election conversation. From Pete Buttigieg to little-noticed NY-17, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE’s aggressive style is forcing the conversation.

Heather James teaches political science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY) and the campus coordinator for CUNY's Edward T. Rogowsky internship program in government and public affairs. Her research work focuses on women, campaign finance, and political parties.

Stephanie Szitanyi is an assistant dean at the New School and an adjunct instructor at Marymount Manhattan College. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University. Her work has been published in the International Feminist Journal of Politics. Her research focuses on women in the military, female political representation, and the militarization of American culture.