December 13, 2017

Corker Statement at Hearing on Presidential Considerations for the Use of Military Force

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following statement at a hearing on presidential considerations for the use of military force. The committee heard testimony from Stephen Hadley, former assistant to the president for national security affairs; Christine Wormuth, former undersecretary of defense for policy; and John Bellinger, former legal advisor to the National Security Council.

“We thank each of you for being here. We have very distinguished witnesses today. We thank you for taking the time.

“A number of members both on and off this committee have raised questions about the executive branch authorities with respect to war making – and I think you know we are moving on toward an authorization [for the use of military force], I hope, we [are] beginning to socialize [that] with others, and this hearing, which is not directly related to that, I think is of good timing – the use of nuclear weapons, and, from a diplomatic perspective, entering into and terminating agreements with other countries.

“Today we will conclude a series of hearings on these issues by examining the many considerations involved in presidential decisions to use military force without authorization from Congress.

“Throughout the history of our nation, presidents have decided to deploy troops into hostilities without prior authorization from Congress in circumstances ranging from small-scale rescue operations, to ‘advise and assist’ missions in the support of partner nations, to large-scale military action.

“It is in our strategic interest to have a strong commander in chief with the ability to take quick and decisive military action, but that authority must be legally sound and checked by vigorous oversight and engagement from Congress on behalf of the American people.

“The decision to use military force is one of the most consequential any president can make and should always be among the most carefully considered.

“As presidents deliberate whether, and how, to use military force, they take into account a number of different factors.

“And it is these factors – the strategic, political and legal concerns involved with such decisions – that we will explore with our panel of witnesses today.

“First are the strategic questions. We will look at what tests the president should use in determining whether to use military force, and what U.S. interests must be at stake. We also want to examine how presidents should balance the use of force against other options.

“We must also look at the political considerations. Public opinion matters for obvious reasons, but when it comes to the use of American force, the support of the public and the Congress play a key role in our ability to be effective, especially when things go wrong. We hope to gain insight into how much political support should factor into a president’s thinking when it comes to using force.

“Finally, we will look at the legal side of this issue. The reality is that unless Congress takes the rare step of withholding funding, history shows that the president’s ability to initiate military action without Congress has been extremely broad. That said, discussing the legal doctrine regarding these questions is a conversation worth having.

“I thank our witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to their testimony and responses to our questions.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.