Bipartisan resolution reasserts Congress’ sole power to declare war, as laid out in the Constitution
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), released the following statement after voting in support of a bipartisan war powers resolution that would require a debate and vote in Congress before further escalating hostilities with Iran. Specifically, the resolution, introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), requires that any hostilities with Iran must be explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force. The resolution does not prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack. The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 55-45.
Last year, Senator Carper opposed ending debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 in an effort to secure a vote on his bipartisan amendment with Senator Udall – the Prevent Unconstitutional War with Iran Act – which would prevent the Trump Administration from taking military action against Iran without the approval of Congress. Senator Carper, the only Vietnam veteran serving in the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly warned against war with Iran.
“For many years now, I’ve enjoyed running from the Capitol down to the Lincoln Memorial and back. Whenever I do, I make a point to go by the Vietnam Memorial, and I run my hand along the names of the 55,000 men and women who died in that war. They died, and many of us risked our lives, over a war that was premised on a lie. In August 1964, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the North Vietnamese had engaged the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin and asked Congress to pass a resolution supporting retaliatory attacks. The following day, he added these words to his request: ‘the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war.’ His administration went on to justify an almost decade long war on the basis of that document.
“We had a similar situation in Iraq. The President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State all asserted that the Iraqis were developing weapons of mass destruction and called on this Congress to give the President the power to respond appropriately. While there is no wall for the over 4,400 men and women who have died in the Iraq War, these Americans have laid down their lives in a conflict that was based on a lie.
“As we have seen, even in cases in which presidents have sought and received Congressional authorization to go to war, the justifications provided have often been faulty, or outright dishonest. Given what we know about the staggering costs of those authorizations, some of which remain in effect, and of the cost of wars waged without Congressional authorization, it is vital that Congress assert its constitutional authority over engagement of U.S. armed forces in hostilities.
“We cannot, once again, stumble into an endless war in the Middle East that puts American lives at risk. I have been outspoken and critical of this Administration’s haphazard and dangerous foreign policy, particularly with regard to Iran. As a result of the decisions of the Trump Administration, Iran no longer has limits on its nuclear program. We watched the people of Iran take to the streets to rally behind the government and mourn General Soleimani. We have given the most extreme voices within the Iranian regime exactly what they wanted. Meanwhile, President Trump continues to threaten additional strikes against Iran and further escalate tensions.
“It’s simple: before any administration – Democratic or Republican – sends Americans into battle, those of us in Congress should have to debate the merits and take a vote. We are free to disagree, and I’m sure there will be many instances in the future where we will disagree. But we have an obligation to do our job. After all, the Constitution provides Congress with the sole power to declare war. When it comes to these most serious matters of life and death, we have an obligation to have a thoughtful, measured debate and to stand up and take a vote. We cannot be afraid to tell the people we represent where we stand on matters this important.”