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Conservatives Split On War Powers

Sen. Mike Lee and Rand Paul
A serious split appears to be developing in the conservative movement between those who believe a debate and congressional action are needed to define President Trump’s authority to pursue further hostile action with Iran and its proxies and those who are satisfied with the status quo and prefer not to see the President’s hands tied in any way.

Principled limited government constitutional conservative Senator Mike Lee of Utah spoke for many of those who think there needs to be further debate and perhaps congressional action when he spoke to reporters after the White House briefed Senators on the strike that killed Iranian terrorist General Qasem Soleimani.

"What I found so distressing about that briefing was that one of the messages we received from the briefers was 'do not debate, do not discuss the issue of the appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran," Lee said according to reporting by Nate Madden. "And that if you do, you'll be emboldening Iran, the implication being that we would somehow be making America less safe by having a debate or a discussion about the appropriateness of further military involvement against the government of Iran."

Lee went on to say, "I find it insulting and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States to which we've all sworn an oath; it is, after all the prerogative of the legislative branch to declare war,” citing Congress' powers described in Article 1 of the Constitution.

"When we send our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines into harm's way, we owe the American people the decent courtesy to follow the Constitution, to debate and discuss these actions," Lee continued according to Mr. Madden’s reporting. "For them to tell us through either a war powers act resolution or otherwise, for us to debate and discuss these things on the Senate floor would somehow weaken the American cause and embolden Iran in any other actions, I find very insulting."

Lee said he decided to back a now-amended resolution introduced by Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to restrict the executive branch's potential military action on Iran. Lee was joined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who also said that he was going along with Kaine's effort, saying that "we need to have a debate about separation of powers" when it comes to waging war.

On the other side were Senator Lindsey Graham and Vice President Mike Pence who defended the status quo.

Senator Graham told reporters on Wednesday that he thought Senators Paul and Lee were "overreacting" by criticizing comments made during a closed-door Iran briefing.

"They're libertarians," Graham said. "I think they're overreacting, quite frankly. Go debate all you want to. I'm going to debate you. Trust me, I'm going to let people know that at this moment in time to play this game with the war powers act ... whether you mean to or not, you're empowering the enemy."

Vice President Mike Pence was slightly more circumspect. Pence defended the administration withholding the evidence as necessary to protect sources and methods, saying “some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have.”

Pence went on to say, “those of us who have seen all the evidence, that saw the evidence in real time, know that President Trump made the right decision,” adding “America is safer, the world is safer.”

House Minority Leader McCarthy also argued President Trump did not need congressional approval to launch the airstrike that killed Soleimani and blasted Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s decision to take up the non-binding war powers resolution introduced by freshman Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-8).

“Make no mistake, today's war powers resolution cannot become law, by definition, it will never be sent to the president, and it will never limit his constitutional authority to defend the American people,” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. 

“This is a meaningless vote that only sends the wrong message that the House Democrats would rather stand with the socialist base than stand against Iran.”

Rep. McCarthy is right, Pelosi’s resolution is the equivalent of a press release signed by all the Democrats who voted for it. We are inclined to agree that raising the war powers issue at this time gives aid and comfort to the enemy – but the enemy in question is not Iran, it is the Democrats who want only to make points with their Trump-hating base and render President Trump impotent in the face of Iranian threats and aggression.

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