Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Reckless Foreign Policy

January 6, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for Congress to serve as a check on the presidency by allowing for debate on a War Powers Resolution and calling on the Trump administration to immediately declassify the White House notification to Congress of the initiation of hostilities against Iran, pursuant to the War Powers Act of 1973, which can also be viewed here:

It has been four days since the United States carried out a military operation that killed Maj. General Qassim Soleimani, the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. In the days since, I have become increasingly alarmed about the strike; a strike that was carried out with insufficient transparency, without consultation of Congress, and without a clear plan for what comes next.

President Trump had promised to keep the United States out of endless wars in the Middle East. The president’s actions, however, have seemingly increased the risk that we could be dragged into exactly such a war. It’s indicative of President Trump’s foreign policy record, which is riddled by chaotic, uninformed, erratic, and impulsive decision-making without adequate consideration for the consequences. In just about every foreign policy area President Trump touches, we’re worse off than we were before he started with it.

With China, North Korea, Syria, Russia, the President has careened from one impulsive action to the next, with no coherent strategy. North Korea today, despite what President Trump said – ‘we don’t have to worry about them’ – is a greater nuclear threat than they’ve ever been. President Trump’s actions have been disastrous. North Korea has more nuclear weapons, and by all reports, has either developed or is very close to developing an ICBM that can hit the U.S. mainland. And that is a result of President Trump’s bumbling.

The situation in Syria is much, much worse than before. Doing what he did in Syria, pulling out those troops, made no sense to anybody even the most hawkish foreign policy people we have. And, every time the president deals with Putin, Putin seems to come out ahead. Looking at the president’s chaotic and rudderless foreign policy in hot spots around the globe, it is hard to conclude that any of situations are better off than when the president took office three years ago. His policies seem to be characterized by erratic, impulsive, and often egotistical behavior, with little regard to a long-term strategy that would advance the interests of the United States.

At times like this, it is essential for Congress to provide a check on the President and assert our constitutional role in matters of war and peace. In my view, President Trump does not—does not—have authority for a war with Iran. And there are several important pieces of legislation that seek to—again—assert Congress’s authority and prerogative on these matters.

Sen. Kaine has a War Powers Resolution that would force a debate and vote in Congress to seek to prevent further escalation of hostilities with Iran. That resolution will be privileged so it will have to come to the floor. My colleagues: we’re going to vote on it. Sen. Sanders has introduced a bill that would block funding for a war with Iran. I am supportive of both Sen. Kaine’s and Sen. Sanders’ efforts and I urge the Senate to consider both in the coming days.

Additionally, the Trump Administration must start acting with greater transparency. By law, the Trump Administration must make a notification to Congress when it conducts a military operation like the one last Friday, that’s known as a War Powers Act notification. Unusually, the Trump Administration made the notification Saturday, after the action occurred, and then they did it in a completely classified format. Let me be clear: an entirely classified notification – in the case of this particular military operation – is simply not appropriate, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.

So Ranking Member Menendez and I sent a letter to the president urging declassification. It is critical that national security matters of such importance – war and peace; the possibility of another endless war in the Middle East – that knowledge of the actions, and justification should be shared with the American people in a timely manner. It’s Americans who will be asked to pay for such a war, if it occurs. It’s American soldiers who will risk their lives once again, and I’m sure it will be bravely.

The reason that the Founding Fathers gave Congress the war making authority is very simple. They were afraid of an overreaching executive. They wanted to make sure that any act as important as war and peace be discussed in an open manner by the Congress, so it could be vetted. So questions could be asked. So a small little insular group – and the president’s group seems even more and more insular, anyone, of strength and courage, people like Mattis and McMaster, who disagree with the president because he’s so erratic, leave—leaving a bunch of yes people, who seem to want to do whatever the president wants. And that means that having a debate in Congress where questions are asked, coming to the American people so that people can hear a justification and hear a justification and see if it’s actually a valid one, is vital.

The Administration still has to answer several really crucial questions about their actions last week. Among them:

  • Iran has many dangerous surrogates in the region and a whole range of possible responses. Which response do we expect? Which are the most likely? What do we know about what Iran would plan to do in retaliation?
  • And then, what are our plans to counter all of these responses? And how effective does our military, does our CIA, does our state department think these responses will be?
  • Next question: what does this action mean for the long-term stability of Iraq? What does it mean to our presence in Iraq? And what does it mean to the trillions of dollars – trillions! - and thousands of American lives sacrificed there? How does what we’re doing now fit into that?
  • How does the Administration plan to manage any escalation of the hostilities? And how does the Administration plan to avoid a larger and potentially endless conflagration in the Middle East?

These are crucial questions. Not one has been answered by the president or anyone in the administration. All of the tweeting and all of the bravado is no substitute for strategic thinking, and long-term foreign policy goals, and ways to achieve those goals. This administration seems to be devoid of that. It certainly was when it came to North Korea; it certainly was when it came to Syria; it certainly is when it comes to Russia; and it seems likely the same case is now occurring with Iran.

The questions that I’ve mentioned – at a minimum – must be answered. This is an important moment for our nation. The American people need clarity that the Trump Administration has a plan – not just a tweet, a plan – to keep our troops, our nation, and our people safe.