[Pages S999-S1000]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                         WAR POWERS RESOLUTION

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, on another matter, today, the Senate 
will consider a War Powers Resolution offered by the junior Senator 
from Virginia. Our colleague's resolution is deeply flawed on a number 
of levels.
  As I explained yesterday, it is too blunt and too broad. It is also 
an abuse of the War Powers Act, which was designed to strike a balance 
between the President's constitutional war powers and Congress's own 
war powers and oversight responsibilities.
  Some of us believe the War Powers Act went too far in undermining the 
separation of powers and infringing upon the authorities of the 
Commander in Chief. But apart from that debate, everyone should 
acknowledge that it was designed to stop Vietnams--the deployment of 
thousands of troops into sustained combat without congressional 
authorization, not the one-off

[[Page S1000]]

uses of limited force that Presidents have carried out literally for 
centuries.
  Until recently, most in this body recognized the need for Presidents 
to have flexibility with respect to the threat of military force. They 
saw the deterrent effect and diplomatic utility of keeping our options 
open.
  During President Obama's tenure, Democrats said frequently that when 
it comes to Iran, we should never take the military option off the 
table. But now they seek to use this privileged resolution to do 
precisely that.
  The collateral institutional damage of this action would fall on our 
military. Its ability to operate quickly and adaptively to emerging 
threats would be jeopardized.
  Colleagues, if you want to take the truly significant step of 
preemptively taking options off the table for defending our troops, if 
you really want to remove troops from Syria or Iraq altogether, why 
don't you just be honest about it and make your case? Find 60 votes to 
pass legislation. Find 67 votes to override a Presidential veto. Don't 
use a blunt and imprecise War Powers Resolution to end-run around the 
constitutional structures that make this a difficult proposition by 
design.
  There is no ongoing, protracted combat with respect to Iran. Our 
troops are not mired in unending hostilities. The War Powers Act aims 
to impose a 60-day clock on combat operations. The strike that killed 
Soleimani took maybe 60 seconds. Let me say that again. The strike took 
about 60 seconds.
  Clearly, this is the wrong tool for this subject.
  We have just come through an impeachment trial because House 
Democrats rushed to use this serious tool as a political weapon of 
first resort rather than patiently conducting more normal oversight 
using the more normal tools that Congresses of both parties typically 
use. No patience for ordinary oversight--just rush to grab the bluntest 
tool available to make a political statement against the President. 
Well, this war powers debate bears an eerie resemblance to that 
pattern.
  To listen to some of the advocates of Senator Kaine's resolution, you 
would think that sweeping resolutions like this were the only means 
available to Senators to express any discomfort with White House 
foreign policy. Of course that isn't so.
  If Senators' priority is genuine oversight, there are countless tools 
in their toolbox. They can hold hearings. They can engage the 
administration directly. They can ask questions and raise issues they 
feel were not sufficiently addressed in interagency deliberations.
  Instead, like impeachment, this War Powers Resolution cuts short that 
interplay between the branches. It short-circuits the thoughtful 
deliberation and debate. It is a dangerously overbroad resolution that 
should not pass Congress and is certain to be vetoed if it does. If my 
colleagues want to make a real difference, this is not the way to go.
  The amendments my Republican colleagues and I have filed expose the 
shortcomings and unintended risks of this approach.
  Senator Kaine has drafted a rule of construction that tries to 
provide an exception allowing U.S. troops to defend themselves against 
an attack if it is ``imminent.'' My amendment exposes the absurdity of 
this by simply removing the word ``imminent.''
  How imminent, exactly, is imminent enough? When do our men and women 
in uniform get to defend themselves? I would like to know. Should our 
servicemembers need to sit on intelligence until an attack is a week 
away? A day away? An hour away? Until they see the whites of the 
enemy's eyes?
  And who makes the determination about imminence? Five hundred thirty-
five Members of Congress? The President? A Pentagon lawyer? A 
battlefield commander? Some young private?
  This resolution imposes a new constraint on the military without 
answering any of those questions.
  If we have intelligence warning that an enemy is planning to attack 
our forces, can we not disrupt the plot until the attack is almost 
underway?
  Senators Cotton, Rounds, and Sullivan have also filed amendments. 
They propose sensible additions to give our troops and their commanders 
more confidence we aren't trying to tie their hands against precisely 
the threat they might face if Iran were again to become emboldened 
enough to attack us--oh, and to make sure we can defend our diplomats 
and Embassies, too, if they were to face renewed threats.
  So clearly this resolution is not ready for prime time. I believe it 
is just an effort to broadcast a political message, but even that 
message can be harmful to our troops and to our national security.
  So what message will the Senate send to American servicemembers? 
Should they doubt whether their own leaders are authorized to defend 
them? What message should we send to our regional allies and partners? 
Can they count on continued solidarity from the United States? What 
would it say to real great-power competitors like Russia and China if 
we cannot even remain united in the face of a lesser challenge, such as 
Iran?
  Let's send the right message with our vote. Let's defeat this 
misguided resolution.

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