Schumer Floor Remarks Urging Senate Colleagues To Support War Powers Resolution On Iran

February 13, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor, urging Senators to vote in favor of Senator Kaine’s bipartisan War Powers resolution on Iran, which would reaffirm Congress’ role in matters of war and peace. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Today, the Senate will vote on a bipartisan War Powers resolution offered by Senator Kaine, directing the President to terminate the use of Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Constitution is clear: Congress has the power to declare war. The President has no authority to enter the United States into another endless conflict in the Middle East. But I fear that the president’s erratic decision-making; his lack of strategy; his inability to control his impulses may bumble us into a war nonetheless, even if he doesn’t intend it.

With this bipartisan resolution, the Senate will assert its Constitutional authority and send a clear, bipartisan message that the President – this President or any President – cannot sidestep Congress when it comes to matters of war and peace.

It is important to do this now. The president’s actions in the Middle East have escalated the confrontation. Before the State of the Union, the president himself said that war with Iran was “closer than you thought” – his words.

Now, let me be clear: nobody in this chamber will shed a single tear over the death of Iranian General Soleimani. But that doesn’t mean that we disregard the potential consequences of the strike or any comparable action. It is more than appropriate for Congress to affirm that it has authority over any major, long-term hostilities with Iran, as the Constitution prescribes.

And yet, still, some on the other side have claimed that this War Powers resolution is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to embarrass President Trump. The Founding Fathers would laugh at that assertion. One of the great powers they gave congress – not the executive – was the power to declare war.

This resolution is partisan? Well, then why are a good number of Republicans supporting it?

Let me say this again: this resolution is going to pass with a bipartisan majority of Senators in support—a rarity these days. If this is purely an attempt to embarrass the president, well, it’s going to be a bipartisan one.

We need to stop pretending as if both sides of the aisle aren’t concerned about the president having too much leeway over the matters of war and peace. That’s why this resolution is bipartisan: because both sides of the aisle agree that for too long, Congress has ceded our constitutional authority to the executive branch. And we’re taking an important step today to claim that authority back.

Now, today there will be amendments offered that would seek to do one thing and one thing only: undermine what we are trying to achieve today and provide the President’s lawyers with get-out-of-jail-free cards.

My colleague from Arkansas has an amendment that would create an exception for operations against Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Sounds reasonable at first, but any enterprising lawyer in the administration could use this amendment to justify the type of unilateral escalation of hostilities that this legislation would prohibit. My colleague from Florida has an amendment that seeks a similar outcome.

My friends on both sides who wish this resolution to pass should vote down these amendments—they cut against the core of the legislation. And Senator Kaine told me that if this amendment passed, the Cotton amendment, he’d be forced to vote against his own bill. So, what good would that do, for those of us who want to pass it?

One final point: with respect to the situation in Iran, we still don’t have a clear picture from the administration about our strategy in the region. The only gesture of transparency that this administration has been able to muster was a classified all-members briefing conducted more than a week after the strike.

Ninety-seven Senators attended, but only fifteen members got to ask questions before the administration – led by Secretary Pompeo – practically sprinted out the door with a less-than-genuine commitment to return. Our demands for a follow-up briefing have been ignored by the White House, Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo. Those briefings should have occurred before the action. I learned about what we were doing in the news, and two hours later, got a call from the administration.

I fear that by keeping Congress and the American people in the dark, President Trump may be directing military operations in a manner that doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny. When you’re forced to consult with Congress, and when Congress has the power to declare war, quick and sloppy thinking evaporates because people have to at least examine the issues in some detail, and the American public has some say.

That is why Senator Kaine’s War Powers resolution is a matter of necessity. I commend Senator Kaine and his colleagues on the job he has done, including my colleague from Illinois sitting right here, and urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it.