Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed passage in the House of Representatives of two measures to rein in the Trump Administration’s use of military force that Congress has not authorized. Chairman Engel led the floor debate on Representative Ro Khanna’s No War with Iran Act, which would prevent the president from using funds to attack Iran absent congressional authorization, and Representative Barbara Lee’s measure to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization.
“The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. And with President Trump taking steps toward dangerous conflict with Iran—without any consultation with Congress—we need to reassert the responsibility given to us in Article I, section 8,” said Chairman Engel on the House floor. “It’s simple: if the President wants to go to war, he needs to come to Congress first.”
The No War Against Iran Act would prohibit federal funding from being obligated or expended for any use of military force in or against Iran unless Congress has declared war or enacted specific statutory authorization for such use of military force that meets the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. The bill simply enforces the text of current law as written in the War Powers Resolution [PL 93-148], based on the basic facts that, under the Constitution, only Congress can declare war and authorize the use of military force and that Congress has not authorized the use of military force against Iran.
The bill would not prevent the President from acting in self-defense. The President always maintains a legal right to use necessary and proportionate force to defend America and U.S. forces. The bill only prohibits the President from acting unilaterally. Congress could authorize military force against Iran at any time.
In July 2019, the House adopted a Khanna amendment to National Defense Authorization Act virtually identical to the No War Against Iran Act by a bipartisan vote of 251 to 170, with 27 Republicans voting “Aye.”
The measure authored by Representative Lee would immediately repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The 2002 AUMF which authorized the 2003 war in Iraq is outdated and repealing it will not affect any current military operations. The 2002 AUMF only provides the President with phony cover to claim Congress has already authorized him to attack Iranian officials, which is false.
Congress passed the 2002 AUMF to address the perceived threat posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein. It permitted the President to use the armed forces as “necessary and appropriate” to “defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to “enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” U.S. military deployments and operations carried out pursuant to the 2002 AUMF – dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom – officially concluded in 2011. Almost 18 years after the resolution’s passage, the United States recognizes the sovereignty of Iraq and considers Iraq a key ally.
Under the Constitution, Congress has the sole duty to declare war. Repealing obsolete Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) is essential to Congress living up to its constitutional responsibilities. Leaving the 2002 AUMF in place increases the likelihood that future presidents will use it as a basis to start a new war, or expand a current one, without Congress’s explicit authorization. In July 2019, the House adopted a Lee amendment to NDAA virtually identical to H.R. 2456, To Repeal the AUMF Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, by a bipartisan vote of 242 to 180.
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