U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s War Powers Resolution (H. Con. Res. 83) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 10, 2020, with bipartisan support. The resolution requires President Trump to seek the Authorization for Use of Military Force before taking the country into a protracted war with Iran. Slotkin, D-Holly, is a former CIA analyst and Shia militia expert who served three tours in Iraq focusing on Iranian-backed militias, and as a senior Pentagon official focused on the region.
The resolution reiterates that only Congress can declare war. The resolution makes clear that Congress has not authorized the use of military force against Iran, and reaffirms the limits imposed on the president under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR). Pursuant to the WPR, this resolution directs the president to terminate the use of the United States military in hostilities against Iran unless Congress authorized them, or their use is necessary to defend against an imminent armed attack on the United States or our armed forces.
“This War Powers Resolution states the President of the United States must consult Congress before going to war with Iran — this is simply what our Constitution requires, and I’m pleased that this bill has support from both Republicans and Democrats,” Slotkin said on the floor of the U.S. House. “For me this is not a theoretical exercise: my husband spent 30 years in the Army, and retired as a Colonel; my stepdaughter is a brand-new Army officer; and my son-in-law’s unit is stationed at Al-Asad Air Base, which was just targeted by ballistic missiles this week. If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation. This resolution allows us to start the debate as our founders intended.”
Slotkin continued: “Let me be clear: The government of Iran is a leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in a range of destabilizing activities across the Middle East. I have experienced these personally as a former CIA analyst. I served three tours in Iraq, and my specialty was to follow Iranian-backed Shia militias operating in Iraq. I have followed Iran’s destabilizing activity in Iraq up close for my entire professional career. I’ve watched friends and colleagues hurt or killed by Iranian rockets mortars and explosive devices. Qassem Soleimani was the lead architect of much Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East and throughout the world. To that end, with Iran, or with any other adversary, the United States, always has the inherent right and obligation to self defense against imminent armed attacks. Always. And the United States, always maintains the right and the responsibility to ensure the safety of our diplomatic personnel and our armed forces serving abroad.
“But when it comes to the matter of longer term war, we have a constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force,” Slotkin said. “The framers of our constitution rightly believed that the power to declare war belongs in the Congress, because this would ensure that the American people, through the legislators they elected, would weigh the most significant decision a government can make.
“As someone who spent her career in national security it is extremely important to me that this resolution in no way ties the President’s hands or takes away any capabilities from our military commanders to respond in self defense for ourselves and for our allies,” Slotkin added. “We have been at war for nearly two decades, which has spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations, and in that time Congress has only voted twice to authorize the use of military force, in 2001 and 2002. Congress has long abdicated its responsibility as laid out in the constitution to make the hard decisions we owe our troops. When it comes to authorizing war. We owe it to our military and to ourselves as a nation to open this conversation of the authorization of military force, to provide our troops that clarity and to abide by the Constitution that we have all sworn to protect.”
The War Powers Resolution:
- Reiterates that only Congress can declare war.
- Affirms that Congress has not authorized the use of military force against Iran Reaffirms the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which directs the President to terminate the use of the United States military in hostilities against Iran unless Congress authorized them, or their use is necessary to defend against an imminent armed attack on the United States or our armed forces.
- This resolution does not prevent the president from acting in self-defense.The United States always has the right to self defense. The president always maintains a legal right to use necessary and proportionate force to defend America and U.S. forces. This amendment explicitly exempts the defensive actions described in the WPR.
- This resolution does not prevent America from defending allies. This resolution does not change the president’s ability to defend allies.
- This resolution does not impact ongoing operations against ISIS and al Qaeda. This resolution does not prevent the president from using force against al Qaeda or its associated forces, as authorized in the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force.