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History Lesson 101: Congress and the Power to Declare War

On November 29, the Senate voted on an amendment to repeal authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, which was granted to President George W. Bush in 2002. The amendment, which would end the president’s control of military operations in Iraq, was introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York.

The amendment failed by a vote of 30-67 even though the troops are scheduled to return home by the end of this year. However, it is interesting that seven senators who voted for the use of force in 2002 voted to repeal the use of force. These are the seven:

  1. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
  2. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  3. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
  4. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
  5. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  6. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  7. Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV)

Senator Paul explained the need for change in his statement before the Senate floor when he said, “Congress must reclaim its constitutional authority over the decision to go to war, or to end a war – it is one of the body’s most important powers.” A separation of powers creates a healthy reluctance to commit our nation to war. The senator recalled that one of the essential motivations behind the composition of the Constitution was to create a government that limited the power of the executive because they feared having a king as a leader.

According to the Constitution, “Congress shall have Power to declare War.” It is important for our country’s leaders to follow the rules outlined in the Constitution. In 2002, Congress ignored this instruction when it granted President George W. Bush authority over the Iraq invasion, known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq,” which NETWORK opposed.

Almost a decade later, we are still dealing with the undeniably grave consequences of the conflict. The situation of Iraq should have been examined closer and with more honesty before the decision was made to invade. War should have had to have bee