A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to curtail the powers of President Joe Biden, and presumably future presidents, to use the military indiscriminately without first consulting with Congress.
The bill was introduced a week after Biden authorized airstrikes in Syria on Feb. 25 without consulting with lawmakers. The move also drew condemnation from many Republicans over the double standard with regard to Democratic outrage when former President Donald Trump sparingly used American airpower.
A number of Senate Democrats now find themselves in favor of limiting expanded executive powers currently enjoyed by the president, which were awarded to the White House in both 1991 and in 2002 — prior to both wars against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, The Hill reported.
To be fair, many Democrats have been beating that drum for years, so there is some semblance of consistency here. But nearly two decades into fighting in the Middle East, with rumors of a broader conflict in Syria on the horizon, lawmakers want to bring back a system of checks and balances before the country takes action overseas. The issue is refreshingly bipartisan.
Kaine, a partisan Democrat who was on former Democratic 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s ticket, surprisingly disapproved of Biden’s Syria strike. He signaled as much in a statement about the bill currently being discussed.
“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” Kaine said in a statement, according to The Hill.
“I call on Congress to promptly take up this measure and for the Biden Administration to support it to finally show the American people that the Article I and II branches can work together on these issues.”
Young, in agreement with Kaine, stated he felt that Congress has been perpetually “operating on autopilot” with regard to the use of the military.
“Congress must not shy away from this debate and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance this important legislation,” Young said.
The bipartisan group of senators so far supporting the bill includes Democrat Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Coons of Delaware. The Democrats are joined in supporting the bill by GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
Kaine said the White House has signaled to him that it is “willing to engage” on the issue. The Biden administration, though, made no commitments to supporting its loss of enjoying the post-9/11 “Authorization for Use of United States Armed Forces” resolution as it sees fit, according to The Hill.
For people seeking an end to endless foreign conflicts, this is fantastic news. It’s also a rare unifying moment for an unpopular Congress that is in a constant stalemate with regard to policy issues.
Generally speaking, the president’s ability to use the military is far-reaching, and there is currently nothing much in the way of stopping Biden or later successors from getting the country bogged down in another foreign conflict without consulting with Congress.
Perhaps this early move could result in keeping Biden and his apparently hawkish advisers in check down the road.
Biden’s use of the military in his first six weeks in office has thus far proved unpopular. In lieu of day one $2,000 stimulus checks, the Democrat has instead appeared rudderless while killing American jobs. The strike in Syria was somewhat of a shock for so many people who expected Biden to take a traditional liberal anti-war stance and focus on his immigration and energy sector initiatives.
Those campaign promises were shelved by a failed impeachment of Trump and then an attack against reported Iranian proxy fighters in Syria.
Of course, one pitfall of putting an end to presidents being able to drag the country into the endless war cycle is that Biden’s administration might have more time to focus on pleasing its base by enacting more radical domestic initiatives.
But those fights can be had another time. For now, there is hope that U.S. servicemen and women might not be deployed to foreign deserts and other war zones until a consensus is reached by Congress — and that is something to celebrate.
It appears as though some future campaigns to kill, conquer and nation-build at the expense of the country, its strained budget and its people in uniform (and their families) might soon no longer be conducted unilaterally by the executive branch.
A timeline to advance the bill has not yet been announced.
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