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Source: United States Senator for Vermont Patrick Leahy


. . . Senate Floor

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, last month the United States and Iran came frighteningly close to a war.  If any of Iran’s missiles had killed American soldiers at those military bases in Iraq, President Trump would have reacted very differently and most likely without consulting Congress. 

Rather than self-congratulatory statements by the White House that depicted a brazen, ballistic missile attack against our bases which injured but failed to kill any of our troops stationed there as a victory, we could be in the midst of a calamity spiraling out of control.  

That is the nightmare scenario we must avoid.  We have been on a path to war with Iran ever since President Trump recklessly abandoned the Iran nuclear agreement, with no credible alternative strategy.  And today, the possibility of war with Iran remains very real.

For too long, this President, and previous presidents, have sent U.S. forces into hostilities without obtaining the consent of Congress.  And the Congress has been a willing party, abdicating its Constitutional responsibility as the sole branch of government with the authority to declare war by permitting the misapplication of open-ended and outdated authorizations for the use of military force.  

The result is endless wars the American people don’t support at a cost of thousands of American lives lost and trillions of dollars spent that could have been far better used fixing problems in this country.

No one is denying the President’s right to act in self-defense to respond to an imminent threat, if reliable intelligence shows that such a threat exists.  But neither is it credible to rely on an authorization for the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein – an authorization based on lies by the White House about non-existent weapons of mass destruction – to justify attacks against Iran nearly two decades later. 

Not a single member of this body who voted for that use of force in 2002 – which I did not – can honestly say that they could have imagined, or intended, that it would be used to justify armed hostilities against Iran so many years later. 

A few weeks ago, a top Administration official said it would be a mistake for the Senate to even have a debate about the President’s war powers.  He said it would embolden Iran’s leaders if they saw that there are differences of opinion among us. 

As others have said – including Senators in the President’s party – that is an insult, it is dangerous, and it belies a fundamental lack of understanding of Congress’ role in this democracy. 

Others, including the President, have falsely accused Democrats of sympathizing with Mr. Soleimani, or even with the Ayatollah, both of whom are responsible for heinous crimes.  That kind of baseless, partisan slander and fear mongering is what we have come to expect from this White House, which so belittles the office of the presidency. 

And yet, our friends in the other party, as has become their practice, remain mute.  By saying nothing, they condone such reprehensible behavior.  One can only wonder how they would react if the tables were turned and they were the targets of such despicable, ad hominem attacks. 

Under the Constitution it is our job – it is our responsibility – to debate and vote, especially when it involves war and peace and the lives of our servicemen and women and their families.  Read the Constitution!  Read the Constitution!

Think of the lives lost, the many more grievously wounded, the families destroyed, the millions of innocent people forced to flee the carnage, and the huge amount of tax dollars wasted, because of that fateful vote in 2002.  A vote that made the world less safe.  We cannot afford to repeat that unforgiveable mistake.  

This Resolution, of which I am a cosponsor, ensures that debate will happen, and that we will have another chance to exercise our authority under Article I of the Constitution and to do what is right.