Thomas Gallatin / April 8, 2021

Biden, Dems Look to Weaken Executive’s War Power

Congress wants to repeal the 2002 AUMF, which Republicans warn is dangerous.

Following Joe Biden’s retaliatory air strikes in Syria last month, Democrat members of Congress put forward legislation to repeal the existing Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolutions of 2001 and 2002. More than that, however, they propose to rewrite the War Powers Act of 1973, which would effectively take away authority from the president to engage in military action to protect Armed Forces personnel and interests abroad.

If Biden, who appears to agree with congressional Democrats, were to go along with this misguided and unnecessary effort, all under the guise of ending America’s “never-ending wars,” it would be a profound break with our nation’s long-running history while also severely handicapping the ability of the executive branch to act both quickly and covertly against terrorists and other foreign enemies.

As John Yoo and Robert Delahunty observe in National Review, “The U.S. armed forces have fought American Indians, Barbary pirates, and Russian revolutionaries without any congressional approval. Harry Truman did not wait on Congress to intervene in Korea in 1950; Dwight Eisenhower threatened nuclear war with Communist China; JFK imposed a quarantine on Cuba during the missile crisis; LBJ sent troops to Latin America; and Richard Nixon expanded the Vietnam conflict in Laos and Cambodia. President Reagan invaded Grenada and attacked Libya; George H. W. Bush sent troops after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait; Bill Clinton intervened in the Balkans. The 1991 Persian Gulf war, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 Iraq war received legislative "authorization” but not declarations of war. The practice of presidential initiative, followed by congressional acquiescence, has spanned both Democratic and Republican administrations and reaches back to Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.“

Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) contends, "Voting to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) without a replacement is voting to disregard the terrorist threats in Iraq. This decision also surrenders the role of Congress in consenting to the use of military force under Article I of the Constitution. Congress should instead reassert its role in the process of authorizing military force and examine ways to update the 2002 AUMF to better reflect the current national security threats in the region.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered similar objections, stating, “The terrorism threats that underlie those authorizations are still there. There’s clearly terrorist activity inside of Iraq.” And Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN) called repealing the AUMF a “dangerous mistake.”

Joe Biden may not have trustworthy cognitive abilities with the nuclear button (or with much else, for that matter), but that’s not a problem of presidential powers to be solved with this Democrat effort.

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