Congressman Moran on Declarations of War

I have been engaged in dialogue lately with fellow conservatives, many third party types, on the Constitutional Party Platform on Defense.  Among other things, I took issue with the allegation that the President of the United States assumes authority the Constitution does not give him to deploy forces without a declaration of war from Congress.  To summarize my argument, it takes special appropriations to fight a war and Congress makes those appropriations (not to mention passes resolutions authorizing the use of force), therefore there is no illegal assumption of authority.  Shame on Congress if they don’t declare war, but our separation of powers remains intact.  I shared the following account with them during the debate.  It’s not a hot topic, but I pass it on to redstaters in case there is interest.

Congressman J. Moran (KS-R) was a guest speaker on January 13, 2009 at the Command and General Staff College. He spoke for attribution, unlike the majority of our guest speakers.  During Q&A, one of the students stood up and asked (paraphrasing), “Is congress ever going to declare war again or are we going to keep fighting without ever declaring war?”

His response was very thoughtful. First, he laid the background for his answer with a discussion on the role of the Commander in Chief (CIC). He admited that the Constitution is not definitive on exactly what authority the CIC of the Army has and by no means are congressmen in agreement on their opinions.  If the Army is not going to do anything until congress declares a war, there is not a need for a CIC, the generals just take the Army to war after congress declares it. There are members of congress that think the executive branch has authority to do something with regards to troop movements, the limits just aren’t clear. In the end, there is a struggle between the two branches of government to find a balance.

Then he gave a very candid and seemingly sincere (he is a politician after all!) answer to the question. He admitted that no one in congress wants to declare war because it is politically unpopular. It is easier to just let the executive branch be responsible.  He elaborated on this a bit and then told us of some soul searching that he has done over the course of the “Iraq War”. He was one who voted for the authorization to use force in Iraq and has mulled that decision over in his mind quite a bit since then. He concluded that he would never again vote for an authorization to use force. He will either do his Constitutional duty, pushing for a declaration of war, which commits the entire nation to the cause, or not.

Fellow student, MAJ Richard Wellman gave a rundown of Congressman Moran’s visit in a blog, which included the following:

“He stated that he felt Congress has been remiss on how it handles its constitutionally mandated authority to declare war. The representative feels that Congress should make the hard decision to declare war instead of taking the easy way out by just authorizing the President to use force in the open-ended manner that has been occurring under the Bush Administration.”  

Find a complete rundown of Congressman Moran’s comments here.