Senate Votes on Paul Amendment to End Iraq War
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate voted on an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill to formally end the war in Iraq, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul. It was defeated, 31-66.
"This year we have seen the President commit our armed forces to combat, while Congress has been ignored or remained silent. No present or future administration should be given an indefinite blank check to conduct military operations in Iraq by Congress," Sen. Paul said. "Congress must reclaim its constitutional authority over the decision to go to war, or to end a war - it is one of the body's most important powers."
"As our service members return home from Iraq, we need to honor them by committing to a return to a more rational and constitutional foreign policy," Sen. Paul added.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Paul spoke on the Senate floor. Below is a video and transcript of his address:
I rise today in support of bringing the Iraq war to a formal end. President Obama has ordered troops home by January 1. We should rejoice at the conclusion of the war no matter whether you favor the Iraq War or not, there is a glimmer of hope for democracy to now exist in the Middle East in Iraq.
War is a hellish business and never to be desired. As the famous P.O.W. and war hero John McCain once said, 'War is wretched beyond description and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.'
This vote today is more than symbolism. This vote today is about the separation of powers. It's about whether Congress should have the power to declare war. Congress vested that power -- the Constitution vested that power in Congress. And it was very important. Our Founding Fathers did not want all of the power to gravitate to the Executive. They feared very much a king and so they limited the power of the Executive.
When Franklin walked out of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, 'What have you brought us?' Was it going to be a republic, a democracy, a monarchy? He said, 'A republic, if you can keep it.' In order to keep a republic, we have to have checks and balances, but we have to obey the rule of law.
Madison wrote that the Constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. The Constitution has, therefore, with studied care vested the power to declare war in Congress.
When we authorize the war in Iraq, we give the President the power to go to war, and we give the power -- the Constitution does -- gives the power to the President to execute the war. All of the infinite decisions that are made in war, most of them are made by the Executive Branch. But the power to declare war is Congress's.
This division was given to make a division of power, separation of powers to allow there to be a reluctance to go to war. We have this vote now to try to reclaim the authority. If we don't reclaim the authority to declare war or to authorize war, it means that our kids or our grandkids or our great grandkids could be sent to war in Iraq with no debate, with no vote of Congress.
We've been at war for nearly 10 years in Iraq. We're coming home, and we should rejoice at the war's end. But we need to reclaim that authority. If we leave an open-ended authority out there that says to the president or any President -- if not this particular President, it could be any President.
If we leave that authority out there, we basically abdicate our duty. We abdicate the role of Congress. There was supposed to be checks and balances between Congress and the President.
So what I'm asking for is that we reclaim, that Congress, the Senate today reclaim the authority to declare war. And at the same time we celebrate that this is an end to something that no one should desire.
As Senator McCain has pointed out, as many have pointed out, Dwight Eisenhower pointed out the same thing. 'If you want to know the hellish of war, talk to someone who's been to war.' That's why this power is too important to be given to one person and to be left in the hands of one person, a President of either party.
So the vote today will be about reclaiming that authority, reclaiming the authority of Congress to declare war. So I would recommend that we have a vote and that the vote today be in favor of deauthorizing the war in Iraq.
It's not just myself who has pointed out this. The first President of the United States wrote that the Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress. Therefore, no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.
This has been recognized from Presidents from the beginning of the history of our country. The problem is that if we don't go it up, that power is left out there and it is a power lost to Congress.
Frank Chodorov wrote All wars come to an end at least temporarily. But the authority acquired by the state hangs on. Political power never abdicates.
This is a time to reclaim that power. It's an important constitutional question. And I hope those Senators will consider this seriously and consider a vote to reclaim the authority to declare war.