Today, Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) issued a Dear Colleague letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The letter requests the Senate take up the pending business of Sen. Paul’s sense of the Senate, which quotes Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in 2007, saying “The President does not have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Sens. Paul and Lee also outline their intention to object to further votes on S. 493 amendments until the motion on presidential war authority is scheduled for a vote.
“Establishing whether the President has the constitutional power to attack another country without congressional authority is the most important issue we can discuss given the President’s recent actions,” Sen. Paul said. “I implore our Senate leadership to make this a priority before we continue work on other matters in the chamber.”
“The President has failed to receive congressional authorization before committing troops to a conflict that does not imminently threaten the national security interests of the United States,” Sen. Lee said. “With our men and women in harm’s way, there is no more important matter on which to focus the Senate’s time. We should begin debate immediately.”
Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell:
As you know, Senator Paul recently made a motion to have the Senate vote on the following sense of the Senate:
“The President does not have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
The motion Senator Paul made has the vote as the pending business in the Senate, ready for a vote at any time. He did not ask for extended debate, and his motion would take up a maximum of 30 minutes of the Senate’s time.
Though brief, it would be an important 30 minutes for the Senate. It will be the only 30 minutes spent on discussing and voting on whether or not the President has the power under the Constitution to attack another country without congressional authorization.
We believe the answer is that he does not. We also believe Congress has an obligation to stand up and declare whether or not we intend to hold the President to his constitutional oath.
While we realize there are other matters the Senate had planned to work on, it is our belief that there is very little we are doing that rises to the level of a constitutional question regarding war. Voting for whether or not to send our sons and daughters to war is the most important and most difficult decision we should ever make as a nation and as senators. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and we believe the Senate is abdicating its responsibility at this very moment.
The bombing and military action against the Libyan government will be two weeks old by the time we return to session next week. That means congressional debate on this war is two weeks overdue.
We feel strongly enough about this matter that we are writing to inform you of our intentions. The Senate has already agreed to move a bill on Tuesday morning. In order to ensure our rights are protected, we will serve notice now that upon completion of H.R. 4, we will object to further votes on amendments to S. 493 until such time as the motion on presidential war authority is scheduled for a vote. We are happy to work with the leaders of both parties on the timing of the vote for next week, and would be happy to allow other business to proceed as soon as an agreement is reached.