Senators introduce resolution warning that Congress has not authorized Iran war

Senators on Wednesday introduced a resolution stressing that neither the 2001 nor 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) covers a potential war with Iran. 

The resolution, spearheaded by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), comes after days of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran in the wake of a U.S. airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top military general.

“The American people do not want another endless war in the Middle East — yet what we’ve seen in recent days is a president willing to make significant military decisions bringing us closer to war without consulting Congress or recognizing that our Constitution gives war making power to Congress, not the President,” Merkley said in a statement.

Paul added that Congress could “take a major step toward reasserting our voice by making it clear” that neither of the George W. Bush-era war declarations cover a conflict with Iran.

“It is time for Congress to stop using previous AUMFs as an excuse to continue abdicating its constitutional responsibility on war,” he said.  

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are co-sponsoring the resolution. 

The one-page resolution states that “neither the Authorization for Use of Military Force … nor the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 … may be interpreted as a statutory authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 

The Trump administration has pointed to the 2002 AUMF as its legal authorization for the strike. 

Senators say they decided to introduce the resolution after a closed-door briefing with top administration officials who, according to Democrats, did not present evidence that Soleimani was killed to prevent an “imminent” threat. 

Paul and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) also railed against the briefing afterward because they say an official warned that publicly debating Trump’s war authority “emboldened” Iran. 

“I find this insulting and demeaning … to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said of the comment.