In Opposition to a War Powers Resolution
From U.S. Senator Tom Cotton
In the next few days, Senate Democrats will move to discharge a war powers resolution to tie the president’s hands in defending this nation against Iran and terrorist masterminds like Qassam Soleimani. Let’s think about how we got here and the implications of this reckless action.
Qassam Soleimani has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, and hundreds of thousands of innocent souls across the Middle East.
For more than 20 years, he was the supreme leader’s most trusted lieutenant, Iran’s terror mastermind, the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by supplying the most deadly kind of roadside bombs those soldiers ever faced. He and his proxies and Iranian leaders like him are responsible for bombings of our embassies in places like Lebanon and Kuwait. They’re in no small part responsible for the ongoing horror of the Syrian civil war or the civil war in Yemen. And there is no doubt, there is no doubt based on the intelligence we have and his bloodthirsty past, that Qassam Soleimani was in Baghdad on January 2 to plot something very dangerous and very big that was going to target Americans once again.
We should all be thankful that Qassem Soleimani no longer walks the earth, and we should be proud of the troops who executed that mission. The world is a safer place and America is a safer nation because of it. And the people of Iran have been given a voice against the man that was responsible for mowing them down in protests over the years-and whose death they’ve just been out on the streets celebrating, even though they risk being mowed down by their own security forces once again.
Yet over the last two weeks, the Democrats have been able to do nothing but express their regret for the president’s decision to eliminate Qassem Soleimani. And make no mistake, this war powers resolution is not about the future. It is about delivering an implicit, or if you listen to their wordsand don’t just read their resolution-an explicit rebuke to the president for ordering the killing of Qassem Soleimani. And they certainly want to prevent the president from doing anything like that in the future. That’s why they’ve introduced this war powers resolution.
Now we should always remind ourselves when we’re having a war powers debate, as we do from time to time, the war powers resolution is unconstitutional. It was passed by a liberal Congress in 1973 at the height of Watergate, and not a single president since then has acknowledged its constitutionality. Not a single one, to include all the Democrats.
I hear a lot about the Constitution these days and reclaiming our authority to declare war and to constrain the executive. I guess all those constitutional experts missed the Federalist Papers and its authoritative explanation of the Constitution and why we have the government we do.
We have a House of Representatives with 435 people to be the institution that’s most closely tied to popular opinion.
We have a Senate to act “as the cool and deliberate sense of the community.” And we have a single president-a single president-to act on behalf of the entire nation at moments of peril. Federalist 70, if they would open up that authoritative explication of the Constitution, says why there is one person- not a council of two or three or four, as some of the states had at the time of the Founding-because of the division of opinion and perspective and temperament an executive council would have. One president, one president who can act, as Federalist 70 said, with “energy” and “dispatch.” And, yes, on some occasions with “secrecy.” So if the Founders didn’t think we should have an executive council of three or four or five people, imagine what they would have thought about 535 commanders in chief, making operational decisions about when to take action on the battlefield.
There are plenty of times when the president has acted in some ways in a much more aggressive and far-reaching fashion than President Trump did just a couple of weeks ago: the First Taiwan Straits Crisis, Grenada in 1983, Libya in 1986, Iran in 1988. I would even say Libya again in 2011, although most of my Democratic colleagues like to send that down the memory hole since it was a Democratic president.
So I’d simply say if you disagree with the president’s decision to kill the world’s most sadistic, bloodthirsty terrorist mastermind, and you want to stop him from doing so again, file your bill to prohibit the use of any taxpayer funds for such operations. It’s very simple. It’s one page. I’ll help you write it if you need help. One page: “No funds will be used to support operations by the Armed Forces against the government of Iran or any of its officials.” Do it. Have the courage of your convictions.
Why are we not seeing that bill? Because it failed just last year.
So if you’re not going to act in what is our true constitutional power, spare us the unconstitutional and dangerous war powers resolutions and simply let the people who are serious about our national security — from the troops on up to the top — do what’s necessary to keep this country safe.