Menendez Clarifies Defense Authorization Bill Cannot be Misinterpreted by Trump Admin as an Authorization for War
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J., Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke on the Senate Floor as the Senate continues to debate the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill. In outlining his support for an amendment reiterating the ability of the U.S. Armed forces to defend themselves, Menendez made clear President Trump will still need the Senate Foreign Relations Committee-- and Congress as a whole-- to issue an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) before launching a military strike against Iran.
“I am concerned that this Administration will seek to twist the Romney amendment into something that is completely unrecognizable, something that we are not voting on today, and something that has no basis in law,” said Menendez. “It is no secret that there are some in this Administration who are eager to engage militarily with Iran. The president himself this week argued that he does not ‘have to’ come to Congress to seek authorization. But those who don’t want to completely bypass our Constitutional prerogative will be grasping at any purported source of authority that could justify, in their minds, that Congress has authorized their actions.”
Below are the Senator’s full remarks as delivered:
“Mr. President, I rise today to explain the context in which I will vote in support of the Romney Amendment.
“First let me say that I appreciate Senator Romney’s intent with this amendment, and I am grateful for his substantive contributions and collegiality as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
“The plain text of the amendment states the obvious: that funds authorized by the NDAA may be used to ensure the ability of our Armed Forces to defend themselves and US citizens.
“I believe every member of this body certainly shares the fundamental understanding that our Armed Forces must have the ability to defend themselves and our citizens against foreign enemies.
“Indeed, the purpose of the NDAA is to provide the authorizations necessary to ensure the Department of Defense is in a position to defend the United States and our citizens. So, in my opinion, in that respect, this amendment is not necessary.
“For anyone who argues that the Romney language is somehow necessary because of the Udall amendment we will be voting on tomorrow, I say re-read the Udall amendment: it includes an explicit exception for self-defense.
“I am concerned that this Administration will seek to twist the Romney amendment into something that is completely unrecognizable, something that we are not voting on today, and something that has no basis in law.
“As a legal matter, the amendment does nothing more than explicitly provide the authority to use funds under the Act to ensure this ability.
“So let me be clear, the amendment does nothing more than that; it does not authorize the use of military force, either implicitly or explicitly.
“Let me repeat: it is not an AUMF.
“An explicit authorization would come through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, following serious and substantive engagement by the Executive Branch.
“It is no secret that there are some in this Administration who are eager to engage militarily with Iran. The president himself this week argued that he does not ‘have to’ come to Congress to seek authorization. But those who don’t want to completely bypass our Constitutional prerogative will be grasping at any purported source of authority that could justify, in their minds, that Congress has authorized their actions.
“Look no further than the Secretary of State, who is reportedly pushing the bogus legal theory that the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed in the wake of 9/11, somehow provides authority to use force against Iran. Apparently, Secretary. Pompeo is not dissuaded by the facts: the plain language of the 2001 AUMF does not extend to Iran; Congress did not intend for the 2001 AUMF to cover Iran, and neither Republican nor Democratic Presidents operating pursuant to this AUMF have claimed such authority.
“So against this backdrop, and a President who has evaded Congress in unprecedented and unlawful ways, M. President, we must make crystal clear that the Romney amendment cannot be abused by those in this Administration who appear desperate to build a case that the President has all the authority he needs to take us into war with Iran.
“We cannot leave anything up to chance when it comes to the choice whether or not to send our sons and daughters into war.
“I believe we should be having a serious conversation about our use of military force, and about what constitutes self-defense and attacks on our allies. I am pleased that Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has previously committed to holding these hearings, and I believe we should commence with hearings from multiple stakeholders, including the Administration itself. Previous administrations have sent up representatives to explain to Congress their rationale for war or explain the type of authorization they are seeking. We should demand nothing less from this one.
“So, M. President, I will support this amendment, and look forward to continuing appropriate oversight over the executive branch’s pursuit of military action around the world.”
Juan Pachon 202-224-4651
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