In the House, I mean. You know there’s no way Dingy Harry will risk letting the Senate deny Obama authorization for the mission. If there’s even a slight chance that a new AUMF will fail, he’ll simply ignore it and go along with whatever the White House says about the president’s inherent power to wage war. As we’ve seen repeatedly, congressional Democrats give not a fart about the institutional prerogatives of their branch vis-a-vis The One.
After his speech to the Iowa FAMiLY Leader, and after he said that the president needed to come to Congress to approve more military action in Iraq, I asked him if the AUMF wasn’t sufficient for that.
“Congress has the authority to declare [war]” said Cruz. “Part of the reason that Congress has that check and balance on the president is that it forces him to explain: What is the military objective we’re trying to accomplish? I believe initiating new military hositilies in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case to seek congressional authorization.”
Cruz deftly stepped around a follow-up question, from the Daily Beast’s Ben Jacobs, about whether the War Powers Act that required this of the president was even constitutional.
Go figure that a senator with presidential aspirations would want to preserve some ambiguity in his views on the WPA. Weigel notes, though, that Obama pal Tim Kaine made a similar point, arguing that because the White House itself has claimed that the 2002 AUMF for war in Iraq should be deemed defunct, they’re required by their own logic to come to Congress for a new one. Makes sense to me, but demanding consistency of The One is a fool’s errand. He reversed himself on gay marriage once he settled on a “base turnout” strategy for 2012; he reversed himself on bombing Assad without congressional approval once he realized the public might not support it; and he’ll be reversing himself shortly on whether he has the power to legalize millions of illegals, since the hardcore amnesty fans on the left won’t leave him alone about it. He might be more reluctant to reverse himself on the Iraq AUMF just because opposition to the war in 2002 is part of Hopenchange’s genesis; if he used the authorization for “Bush’s war” to justify a new round of attacks in Iraq, the symbolism of it might alienate some liberals at an inopportune moment. That’s not how I’d bet — when have they ever really given him a hard time? — but it’s a risk.
If you’ve never read the text of the 2002 AUMF, incidentally, here you go. Most of it is about the “Iraqi regime” and Saddam’s noncompliance with UN mandates about WMD, but there’s language in there that could be stretched by the White House to try to cover these ISIS operations. To wit:
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;…
Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40)…
The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq;
“Iraq,” “ISIS,” whatever. Right, champ?
Actually, and quite unlike his M.O. on Libya, I think he’s going to go to Congress for authorization this time. The case for bombing jihadi degenerates before they overrun the country, including sympathetic groups like the Kurds and the Yazidis, is stronger than the case for bombing one side in a war between Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists in Syria. The fact that O has already begun operations will also bring wavering congressman around to his side, I think. The Pentagon’s had some modest success already in creating a bit of momentum for the peshmerga; yanking that now would feel like a death sentence. I’d be surprised if O didn’t get a majority of both caucuses voting yes, although there’ll be wrangling over the scope of the authority — which may be the White House’s main concern in going to Congress. The time may (and probably will) come when O wants to use Special Ops troops to target big-ticket ISIS operatives or assets; the AUMF he’d get from Congress, though, will probably prohibit the use of ground troops. Would he be willing to defy that constraint, including/especially if it got the votes of a majority of congressional Democrats? If not, maybe he’s better off not asking for an AUMF and daring Congress to reprimand him for it.
Update: Slam dunk.