Kentuckians can be proud that Sen. Rand Paul continues to lead the lonely fight to get the U.S. Senate to revisit the 16-year-old war powers authorization — approved in the aftermath of 9/11 — that has been used by three presidents to wage war in seven countries, expending thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
Paul’s proposal, offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, would have repealed the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2001, along with another passed in 2002, that have served as the legal basis for the ongoing military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military operations elsewhere aimed at combating ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
If it had passed, there would have been a six-month delay to give Congress time to investigate and debate the issue and pass a new authorization, if it chose.
Paul had to work hard to even get a vote on the measure, which was tabled on a 61 to 36 vote. One of his supporters was Tim Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate last year. “Of all the powers Congress has, the one that we should most jealously guard is the power to declare war,” Kaine said.
Although Paul opposes almost all foreign military entanglements, his fundamental argument is that Congress has the constitutional authority and obligation to vote on whether the U.S. will wage war, but for over a decade and a half has ceded that power to the president.
A reminder about why Congress must reassert its power over the executive’s ability to act alone and launch into deadly and costly conflicts was delivered Tuesday in New York.
Before the United Nations, President Donald Trump boasted about building up the United States’ military power and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.
If the AUMFs were repealed, Congress would be compelled to hold hearings on and debate a new authorization for use of military force. It would have to assert its authority and responsibility by taking a stand.