Seven Congresspersons have written an opinion piece in the Washington Post, reminding the country that war is Constitutionally the job of Congress, not any president. The group is truly bipartisan, led by Justin Amash, the libertarian former-Republican-turned-independent. The fact that it is made up, primarily, of Republicans, challenging a Republican White House, makes it deserve attention. The fact that the article was necessary proves that most people have not read the Constitution.

In addition to Independent Amash, from Michigan, the group includes four Republicans: Ken Buck, Colorado; Scott Perry, Pennsylvania; Jared Golden, Maine; Chip Roy, Texas; and two Democrats: Dean Phillips, Minnesota; Abigail Spanberger, Virginia. The representation is not just primarily Republican, it’s also nationwide, from Maine to Texas and Pennsylvania to Colorado.

This is not an Anti-Trump act. It’s a strike in favor of the Constitution.

We are members of Congress whose political ideologies and priorities run the gamut, but we are united in our determination to safeguard the constitutional duty of Congress to declare war and to ensure that the American people have their voices heard. This duty is essential to providing the men and women of our armed forces the support and clarity of mission they deserve.

The group notes that it was just not the presidents who have usurped power. Congress has also abdicated its responsibilities:

Leaders from across the political spectrum have too often avoided that responsibility — and the full debate and engagement it brings. Congress must act now, before our inaction irrevocably undermines our constitutional separation of powers and endangers lives. . .

Today, less than half of 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces. Too often, military families experience multiple deployments while the rest of us, including members of Congress, go about our lives disconnected from their sacrifice. Our broken system is failing them.

They were specific about how Congress has failed us:

We have been at war in the Middle East for nearly two decades, under authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) that our predecessors in Congress passed almost a generation ago. Men and women of our armed forces continue to risk their lives as presidents of both parties stretch these authorizations to justify often tenuously related military engagements. Rather than debating and voting on present conflicts, Congress habitually acquiesces to the executive branch’s actions. This must change; the Constitution demands it, and the people we represent deserve it.

Constitutionally, it is the job of Congress to wield war powers, not the Executive Branch:

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution places the power to declare war in Congress. As representatives of the people, we have a responsibility to engage with them on the purposes, goals and risks of war. The Founders rested this authority with Congress to guarantee that the decision to send Americans into harm’s way would be made by the individuals most accountable to the people.

It is clear that the Founders wanted the country controlled by “We The People,” as in the Preamble to the Constitution—and they would do that through their Senators and Representatives, as in Article I. Read this, PLEASE.

Here’s the power of Congress regarding the military;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;-And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

This long section shows how seriously the Founders wanted Congress in control of the country. The “president” was only supposed to “preside” over the wishes of Congress. Article I gives Congress ALL powers. There are TEN sections, which quite clearly puts Congress in control.

How important should the “president” be—the one who only presides? The Executive Branch, which follows Congress, has only four sections.

SECTION ONE: How a President may be chosen—as decided by Congress, and the State Legislatures.

SECTION TWO: While the President is called “Commander in Chief” of the military, read this: “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.”

SECTION THREE: The President “shall” provide information to Congress, and “recommend” measures for their “consideration.”

SECTION FOUR: Congress may fire the President, or anyone in the Executive Branch.

So. . .where is this so-called “Presidential power”? Only in three words, “Commander in Chief” of the military, and that wording is only to note that civilian authorities “head” the military–as directed by Congress.

There is nothing in the Constitution that allows a President to order any foreign action. There is nothing about so-called “Executive Privilege,” “Executive Orders,” or any other Executive action, except as authorized by Congress.

And that’s our problem. Congress has handed over it’s authority and responsibility to the White House. This is not about politics to this writer. He has been saying this since Lyndon Johnson. And now, in an era of immediate communication, there is NO reason Congress should not be informed, consulted, and give its rightful approval of any foreign action.

Unfortunately, reasserting its Constitutional purpose will have to be clawed back from the Executive, as the OpEd says:

Last week, the House of Representatives voted on a concurrent resolution regarding the use of force against Iran or its agents. For some of us, this vote was a positive step toward reasserting Congress’s constitutional responsibilities. For others, it was an inadequate and inapt substitute for real action. Regardless of our respective positions on that vote, we firmly agree that Congress must reclaim its Article I responsibility regarding the use of force.

To start, it is time to have a serious debate and vote on repeal of the 2002 AUMF, which authorized the use of force against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. This authorization has fully outlived its purpose, given the death of Hussein, regime change and the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, regardless of how one views the merits of that withdrawal.

Re-establishing the Founders’ vision is way overdue.

6 COMMENTS

  1. As representatives of the people, we have a responsibility to engage with them on the purposes, goals and risks of war. The Founders rested this authority with Congress to guarantee that the decision to send Americans into harm’s way would be made by the individuals most accountable to the people.

    A very good article and history lesson. The reason I cut and pasted the above is because I wonder if the current Democratic run Congress has forgotten that its members are responsible to the people not only in the aspect of declaring war, but in all circumstances. Congress cannot let their constituents fend for themselves for better than 3 years while they conduct a witch hunt. ?

    I read in this article where Congress has the power to fire the president but I would think that action would be taken only if the president did something egregious, not because they don’t like him. If these members of Congress want to remind us all of the constitutional powers they also need to remember that they can’t flaunt that power pursuing a baseless vendetta.?

  2. Yes,it is true that the president must receive approval from congress before declaring war,but when an enemy and or it’s proxies attack the U.S. and or her interests first,the president doesn’t need congressional approval to retaliate against an enemy that has attacked us or our interests FIRST!This congress wants to hamstring this president to prevent him from retaliating against an enemy.Retaliating isn’t the first strike.It isn’t declaring war.These retaliatory attacks are in defense of the U.S. and or her interests.

    • Your premise is wrong from the outset. A president does NOT “declare war.” ONLY CONGRESS can declare war. A president can only make a request for war powers, and then direct the military, according to the orders of Congress.

      Congress has abdicated it’s rightful powers by giving a president open-ended permission to do anything he damned well pleases. War authority should be clear, specific, and delineated, with an exact sunset date. On that date, the authority expires and must be renewed or it ends.

      With our immediate communications, there is no reason a president cannot get Constitutional Congressional direction for any and every action Congress wants.

      • Time out.

        You are 100% wrong to attack Bruce over mere semantics. You read that the president can declare war. That is not what Bruce meant.

        Please re-read what the poster says before declaring his statement wrong. God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth. We need to listen, in this case Read, more than responding.

        • No. The premise is important. The Founders did NOT intend a president to be a king or emperor or dictator. What we have now is one single person taking incredibly important actions–in the name of all of us– with no restraints what-so-ever. And, starting with George Washington, it has gotten worse and worse.

          Read the Constitution. A president was intended to “preside” over the bureaucracy and only to “execute” the wishes of Congress. No more.

          This is not about Trump, it’s about the presidency.

          All of the war actions since Korea are unconstitutional. [Korea was a UN war, not a US war.] The only reason they have happened is that presidents have usurped/Congress has abdicated power and no one has had the guts to make it right.

  3. Quote: “The fact that the article was necessary proves that most people have not read the Constitution.” The constitution gives Congress the authority to DECLARE war but not the authority to make day to day decisions. What is not addressed is what happens when a foreign country DECLARES or wages war on us and Congress takes no action. Case in point–Iran attacked our embassy, overran it, occupied it and held 52 Americans hostage (prisoners of war) for 444 days. Precedent (stare decisis) set by President Jefferson is that the president may respond to acts of war with acts of war.

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