Senate follows House in banning money for Trump war on Iran
Sen. Chris Murphy, D.,Conn. said Trump's tendency to lie raises special concern when it results in deployment of troops in harm's way. | Susan Walsh/AP

WASHINGTON—By a bipartisan 55-45 vote on Feb. 13, the GOP-run Senate followed the Democratic-run House and barred saber-rattling Donald Trump from spending any military money to make war on Iran.

Eight Republicans joined all 45 Democrats and both independents in voting against Trump and against war on Iran. One of the eight, Maine’s Susan Collins, faces the voters this fall. All other Republicans voted with Trump after the Senate rejected GOP amendments designed to weaken the resolution, SJRes68.

The House passed its anti-Iran war money resolution earlier this year, but there are slight differences between the two, so the Senate version bounces back across Capitol Hill again.

In so many words, the 55 senators, like the majority in the Democratic-run House, want to make the decision after informed and extensive debate about war and its consequences, rather than leaving it up to the whims of Trump.

Speakers alternated between specific distrust of Trump and general condemnation of unauthorized presidential war-making, though several also chided their congressional colleagues for shirking their own duties in deciding issues of war and peace, preferring to leave responsibility with presidents.

Progressive groups, peace groups, the CPUSA and US Labor Against War were among the wide coalition that, again, opposed Trump’s planned war on Iran and lobbied lawmakers to invoke the War Powers Act to stop him. As usual, Trump has vowed to veto the Iran war ban and needs votes from only one-third-plus-one of the members in either house of Congress to uphold his stand.

Senate Democrats, plus the two GOP sponsors, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, spoke for the war ban. No GOP foes uttered a peep about it. They discussed other topics, such as opioid abuse. The Democratic sponsors were Tim Kaine of Virginia and Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

“SJRes68 begins with a simple but important finding: ‘Congress has the sole power to declare war under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution,’’ said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. “And Congress has not yet declared war upon, nor enacted a specific statutory authorization for the use of military force against…Iran’’ SJRes68 adds. “ That makes a simple point,” Coons said.

“President Trump, like all presidents before him, does not have the authority to wage war without consulting this Congress. And Democrats and Republicans are concerned about this administration’s apparent indifference toward Congress and its critical role in deciding matters of war and peace.”

“The House just passed two measures to restrict the president’s war-making powers. The Senate needs to have that same debate,” Coons urged.

The other House measure Coons cited, which Trump also vows to veto, would repeal the 2002 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force to invade Iraq. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump have since used it to justify all sorts of other military activity in the Middle East.

“Congress authorizes the use of military force and the president — as Commander in Chief — directs the military as it undertakes the effort to complete its missions,” Lee said. “This arrangement gives the American people the best of both worlds: A deliberative, representative legislature to declare war and a single, decisive Commander in Chief to lead the troops.”

“Unfortunately, Congress has not upheld its end of this responsibility…Members, unfortunately, sometimes are inclined to shirk” their duty “whenever possible,” he chided his colleagues.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., expected Trump “to bend the facts” and “indulge in outright fabrications” and he called that tendency “particularly concerning and unacceptable when it may result in the deployment of troops into harm’s way.”

While Murphy did not say so – others did – two other recent presidents, one from each party, also fabricated facts to justify sending troops to long-drawn-out U.S. wars: Democrat Lyndon Johnson in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964 and Republican George W. Bush in the 2002 AUMF to go into Iraq.

North Vietnamese boats never attacked U.S. ships in 1964 and the were no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

“Congress has a responsibility to demand and, if necessary, challenge the basis for assertions that could be used to take this country to war,” Murphy explained.

“Under the Constitution, it is our job, it is our responsibility to debate and vote, especially if it involves war and peace and the lives of our servicemen and women and their families,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate’s most-senior Democrat.

“I would make a suggestion to the president and to members of his Cabinet: Read the Constitution. And I would say to those in this body who too often ignore what the Constitution says: Read the Constitution.”

The anti-Iran war resolution “ensures that debate” over going to war “will happen and that we will have another chance to exercise our authority under Article I of the Constitution and do what is right,” Leahy explained.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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