Biden to Introduce Legislation to Rescind the Authorization to Use Force in Iraq
Thursday, Senator Joseph R. Biden, a Delaware Democrat who leads the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would work to repeal the 2002 war authorization vote in an effort to close down the war.Whether you agree with the action or not, this is on the Constitutionally strongest path that Congress has for removing our troops from Iraq.
Unanswered questions at this point: As part of his bill, will Senator Biden include instructions to the executive to negotiate a formal surrender, to reduce the likelihood that our troops will come under attack as they withdraw if his bill is enacted? Or does he simply trust terrorists to honor a cease-fire he hopes to unilaterally impose?
I was able to ask Andrew C. McCarthy, distinguished Federal prosecutor and National Review Online contributor, if Senator Biden’s proposal requires a Presidential signature to take effect. Congress is the sole branch of government charged with the power to declare war. Doesn’t that also imply that Congress has the power to un-declare one too?
Mr. McCarthy believes, because the authorization to use force against Iraq was less than a formal declaration of war, that a rescission of that authority will not assume the force of law unless first signed by the President (or approved by a 2/3-majority override vote) …
I think there is a pretty clear answer in the Iraq resolution context: the resolution is not a declaration of war, however similar the two may be. Resolutions are like other bills, they have to be submitted to the president to sign or veto. In fact, the Iraq resolution did not get the force of law until Bush signed it on October 16, 2002. Biden’s proposed rescission resolution would also be like any other bill — in the unlikely event it ever passed both houses of congress, the president would have to sign or veto it.If I may pick an important nit here, Congress has undeclared all of the declared wars in American history, by ratifying the peace treaties that ended hostilities. This fact serves reminder that once a war begins, it doesn’t end until both sides agree, one way or another, to end it.
This would be an interesting question, though, if congress had formally declared war against Iraq. I believe we have only had five declared wars in American history, and congress has never tried to “un-declare” before. Since the constitution does not address recissions of declarations of war, I assume they would have to be treated like ordinary bills — i.e., they’d have no effect unless the president signed them or congress overrode a veto. But I confess that this is just an assumption — I don’t know what would happen.
The current Congress doesn’t seem to grasp this reality. They believe they can unilaterally declare that a shooting war is over, even while the enemy shows no inclination to stop fighting. But does anyone really believe that Islamists would react to passage of something like the Biden proposal by laying down their arms and pursuing their ends by peaceful means?
Ultimately, measures like the Biden proposal, or cutting off funding to troops in the field, or imposing a troop cap — all which seek to “end the war” by pressuring our own side while ignoring the existence of the enemy — cannot end a war. They do nothing to make radical Islamists less likely to use violence to get what they want. Such measures can only force America into retreat and allow the enemy to advance.