One of many areas in Congress that have failed since 1991 is reclaiming its war powers. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Presidential War Powers and the need for Congress to reclaim its war power. Specifically, the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) is under discussion, and the AUMF joint resolution during the Bush Administration is the focus of the talks https://www.heritage.org/defense/commentary/time-house-join-senate-reclaim-congress-war-powers.
One of the most consequential constitutional duties assigned to the legislative and executive branches is the power to declare war. In Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, Congress declared war only eleven times in five different conflicts and authorized military force more than forty times in our nation’s history. In the Constitution, under Article II, the President has ample authority to defend the interests of the United States, including the ability to use the military to protect the country. Our framers ensured this balance of power to be a check on war powers. In addition, it is the responsibility of the American people to ensure their elected officials do not allow America to get involved in unjust wars and conflicts. The cost paid by the American people is to our most precious resource, our sons and daughters. Unfortunately, the American people have become complacent in many areas, and Congress has drifted away from public service and is now serving at the expense of the American people.
The US Congress consisting of the House of Representatives and the US Senate is one of the least respected institutions in our nation (https://news.gallup.com/poll/352316/americans-confidence-major-institutions-dips.aspx). It is at the bottom of the list with lawyers, media, and big business. Members of Congress, both past and present, have earned this distinction. Career politicians do not hold themselves accountable, hide from responsibility, are not transparent, do not tell the truth, and have abandoned the principles of public service for self-service. Career politicians serve special interests and their lobbyists and the wealthy political elite who finance their campaigns. This is all done at the expense of the American people.
The US Congress has conceded many of its constitutional responsibilities to the executive branch and failed to challenge the judicial branch when necessary. The idea of three equal branches of government has declined over the past sixty years. Another adverse effect is that career politicians have allowed an informal branch of government to emerge, led by unelected bureaucrats to take over the running of our government. The government has grown to 9.1 million people (https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/438242-the-federal-government-is-the-largest-employer-in-the-nation/), 440 agencies and branches (https://www.forbes.com/sites/waynecrews/2017/07/05/how-many-federal-agencies-exist-we-cant-drain-the-swamp-until-we-know/?sh=64a3ada81aa2), and over 242 Volumes and 185,000 pages of policies and regulations that govern every aspect of our lives (https://cei.org/publication/tens-of-thousands-of-pages-and-rules-in-the-federal-register-). The idea of limited government and a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has been weakened considerably since Abraham Lincoln said these words. Career politicians have weakened our Constitutional Republic and left the rights and safety of Americans vulnerable.
Collectively, career politicians have hurt many Americans’ economic prosperity, made our country energy dependent, and sacrificed our safety and security by protecting illegal immigrants and leaving our borders unsecured. Further, they have undermined public education, removed God from the public square to the detriment of all our institutions, weakened our military, and eroded the quality of the justice system. The result is an America that has lost its way and is divisive, fearful, and uncertain about its future.
Since World War II, the AUMF has been the only legislative tool granting the President the authority to deploy military troops into combat. Congress has repealed every AUMF declaration except 1991, 2001, and 2002 once the mission was complete.
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As this debate continues, some have taken the position that repealing 1991, 2091, and 2002 will weaken America’s ability to respond to our enemies and relieve the Biden administration of its obligation to protect America. The responsibility will remain, but unfortunately, as we have seen on our border, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Africa, and our foreign policy, the Biden Administration and Congress have failed.
The repeal of these AUMFs is necessary for Congress to reclaim war powers given to a president to prosecute conflicts. Under Article II of the Constitution, the President has ample authority to defend the interests of the United States, including the ability to use the military to protect the country without an AUMF. An AUMF today is not necessary. Our National Security can be covered by approved Presidential Executive Orders, Presidential Findings, interagency cooperation and coordination, securing our borders, agreements with our allies, and a functional domestic and foreign policy underpinned by a well-led and strong military.
There’s a cost when Congress decides to do nothing concerning existing war powers between the legislative and executive branches. Our enemies see President Biden as a weak leader. Biden’s National Security team is also seen as soft.
There is also a cost in international relations regarding war powers. At a time when China is expanding in the South China Sea, growing its Navy, and threatening Taiwan, Russia is doubling down in Ukraine, North Korea is developing its missile program, and Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and expanding its nuclear program, Congress must demonstrate to the world that its members can debate, discuss, and exercise their war powers consistent with their constitutional responsibilities.
If Congress does nothing, it will speak volumes about the seriousness of the threats on the horizon. Our enemies know President Biden is weak, and now they are watching to see if Congress is strong or weak regarding war powers.
The Constitution provides substantial flexibility for Congress and the President to protect America. There is no doubt that the decision-making process for engaging in military hostilities given China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, rogue states’ increasing ability to procure weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the rise of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and international terrorism, that maintaining flexibility is critical to preserving American national security. Unfortunately, the dysfunction in the legislative and executive branches is the real problem America faces.
Returning to the beginning of this article, my confidence in Congress is low, and the Biden Administration is failing. We can discuss AUMF authorities until pigs fly, but as long as our government is dysfunctional, America has a more significant crisis at hand.
Donald C. Bolduc
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