Key Vote YES on the Iran War Powers Resolution, S.J.Res. 68

On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote YES on the Iran War Powers Resolution, S.J.Res. 68. This resolution stipulates that there is no specific statutory authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic Republic of Iran and directs the President to remove U.S. armed forces from hostilities against Iran absent any such authorization or a formal declaration of war.

Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was, without question, at least partially responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans, and we accept the justification that the White House has provided for the strike which killed him. This is not at issue. The issue is the separation of powers under the Constitution and the need to reinforce the framers’ vision of the powers delegated to each branch of the federal government.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution grants Congress with the sole power to declare war against other nations. This power was not delegated lightly or without careful attention to detail. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, James Madison wrote, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.” This is in stark contrast to the monarchical system by which America was governed prior to the revolution, where the King had the power to both declare and conduct war.

Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted, “The last thing America needs is 535 Commanders in Chief.” The Constitution does grant the President with the role of “Commander in Chief,” who determines the conduct of a war “when [the armed forces are] called into the actual Service of the United States.” However, he or she does not have the authority to call the armed forces into service to initiate such hostilities. In Federalist No. 69, Alexander Hamilton describes the executive’s power as “nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and Admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war.”

Although Madison and Hamilton disagreed on numerous aspects of executive power, the founders were quite unified that the executive branch was not meant to be able to begin war against foreign nations without express authorization from Congress. They, and the rest of the framers, meant for this separation of powers to remain that way to safeguard our Republic.

Furthermore, it is important and necessary to get Congress’s input on key foreign policy decisions because of the costs associated with military action. According to a November 2019 study conducted by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the United States has incurred $6.4 trillion worth of cost as a result of its post-9/11 wars. That is well over one-quarter of the existing national debt. Already faced with serious fiscal obligations due to growing entitlement programs, our nation cannot afford to enter more of these Middle Eastern conflicts. There must at the very least be a thoughtful discussion amongst the elected representatives of the people and a public vote on the matter.

Further costs of military action are, of course, the endangerment of American lives, as every instance of intervention comes with it a serious risk to our troops. The brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for our country should be respected at least as much as to have those elected simply debate when, where, and why they are asked to do just this.

Proponents of conflict with Iran cite both the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) as sufficient statutory authority to initiate hostilities. Passed more than 18 years ago, the 2001 AUMF has been far too broadly interpreted. It was never meant to legitimize every possible Middle Eastern conflict in perpetuity, so much so that we are now, as a nation, asking servicemen and women to risk their lives under authorization passed before they were born. It is time Congress had a discussion on these issues once again for the American public to see. The 2002 AUMF against Iraq has served its very explicit purpose and should be repealed.

No one political party is innocent in this matter and this is not about any one President. The root of our current foreign adventurism is tied back to the justifications provided by the Bush administration. Under the Obama administration, U.S. armed forces overthrew the government of Libya and bombed Somalia, Syria, and Yemen using these same justifications. This resolution may be targeted toward preventing existing hostilities with Iran, but it symbolizes the greater need to actually ponder the costs and consider the weight of the question of war and peace.

Many of the issues with out-of-control government power stem from congressional leaders surrendering their constitutionally delegated power over to the executive branch, whether they be handed over to unelected regulators or in the office of the President itself. In order to chip away at the behemoth our federal government has become, we need our members of Congress to be willing to reclaim the powers our framers meant for them to have. This includes the power to initiate hostilities and to declare war on foreign nations. S.J.Res. 68 is one monumental step in that reclamation fight.

FreedomWorks will count the vote S.J.Res. 68 on our 2020 Congressional Scorecard and reserves the right to score any related votes. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks