On Rescinding the President's War Powers

Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Robert Byrd of West Virginia will be introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the legislation that allowed the invasion of Iraq, in October 2007 on the fifth anniversary of the AUMF’s initial passage. From Senator Clinton’s speech on the Senate floor:

Earlier this week, President Bush vetoed legislation reflecting the will of the Congress and the American people that would have provided needed funding for our troops while also changing course in Iraq and beginning to bring our troops home.

I believe this fall is the time to review the Iraq war authorization and to have a full national debate so the people can be heard. I supported the Byrd amendment on October 10, 2002, which would have limited the original authorization to one year and I believe a full reconsideration of the terms and conditions of that authorization is overdue. This bill would require the president to do just that.

The American people have called for change, the facts on the ground demand change, the Congress has passed legislation to require change. It is time to sunset the authorization for the war in Iraq. If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him.

My opinion? This is a good move.

Now, I am not hopeful that this legislation would stand much chance of passing both houses of Congress. If it did, the President would not sign it–appropriations bills that restrain his war-making powers don’t pass his muster, so a bill completely gutting his war-making powers would never be signed into law.

What this does do, however, is to reframe the debate. Like Senator Webb of Virginia said two days ago, the war in Iraq was won four years ago, and now we’re fighting an occupation we have no business being involved in. The 2006 election was seen by virtually everyone as a referendum on the Iraq boondoggle. A bill like this, and the debate it would engender in both houses of Congress, would serve to paint the Democratic Party as the one who wants to end the war and bring the soldiers home while painting the Republican Party as the one who wants to continue to spend American lives in a hopeless cause. If the Democrats of Congress introduce, time and again, legislation designed to end the American involvement in Iraq in accordance with public opinion (which is already solidly against the war), eventually even the Republicans in Congress will be forced to listen, if only for their own political survival in 2008.

Threatening to take away the President’s war powers–either with appropriations bills or with legislation rescinding the AUMF–will place Republican Congressmen in the precarious position of supporting their party at the cost of their political future.

It’s the right move.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *