One of the issues arising from the Qassam Soleimani strike in Iraq has been picked up by some usual critics of the President – be they the Democrats (who are generally anti-anything-Trump-does) or Republicans like Mike Lee and Rand Paul – and deals with the President’s authority to order military strikes without direct Congressional approval.
One of the surprising (at least, on the face of it) supporters of the movement to curtail the President’s power in this has been Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican out of Florida who has otherwise been one of the staunchest of presidential allies.
With a passionate speech on the floor, Gaetz supported a resolution calling for limited action against Iran.
I represent more troops than any other member of this body. I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington.
If our servicemembers have the courage to fight and die in these wars, Congress ought to have the courage to vote for or against them.
I’m voting for this resolution. pic.twitter.com/cSCBG7CmIm
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 9, 2020
Gaetz and the other Republicans who have made similar calls are all correct in cautioning the White House against further military action against Iran. But, calls from members of Congress simply aren’t enough. Congress, by way of the Constitution, is supposed to be the body that declares war and passes diplomatic treaties. While it is debatable over whether or not the action against Soleimani is an act of war (I do not believe it is, mind you), what is not debatable is that the executive branch does not have the power to straight-up declare war on Iran should Iran do something even more stupid than shooting down a passenger plane.
But, as we’ve seen with sending troops into the Middle East and North Africa, there is so much leeway that the executive branch has – leeway that was granted in the past by Congress.
Granted, hilariously, by many of the same long-time politicians who now condemn the President.
This is not the only area in which Congress has granted too much power to the executive branch. Much of the out of control spending that Congress will complain about (the party doing the complaining being entirely dependent on what issue is being funded at the time) is spending that they actually have the power to curtail. Congress has the power of the purse, but for multiple administrations has refused to wield that power.
So, when you see that Congress is very loudly and very passionately decrying executive overreach, it is a virtual guarantee that Congress itself gave the executive branch the power to overreach in the first place. If the President is bordering on the authoritarian in your eyes, then look to Congress, who gave him that power in the first place (maybe not directly, but they sure gave it to one of his predecessors).
It was designed to be a balanced system. That system has been out of balance for far longer than Trump has been President. It was out of balance even before Barack Obama or George W. Bush. None of that means we shouldn’t try to fix it. If you’re against Congress taking power away from Trump, then consider you’re also taking power away from the next Democratic president. It will happen, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll be gnashing your teeth as that president usurps more of Congress’s power.
Start fighting back now, though, and you keep that from happening.