More Iran

MORE IRAN….So are we planning to go mano-a-mano with Iran? Everyone seems to think so, but Jim Webb decided to ask. During a hearing with Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, he asked if the president thinks he has the authority to launch an attack against Iran “in the absence of a direct threat without congressional approval.” Rice declined to answer:

Senator, I’m really loathe to get into questions of the president’s authorities without a rather more clear understanding of what we are actually talking about. So let me answer you, in fact, in writing. I think that would be the best thing to do.

There’s probably less here than meets the eye. Matt Yglesias points out that “most recent administrations have claimed the authority to launch military actions without specific congressional authorization,” but I’d go further. As far as I can tell, every single administration in American history has basically claimed the right to launch attacks on other countries without congressional approval. The War Powers Act has done precisely nothing to change this, and to be honest, I don’t think Congress wants to change it. They’d just as soon not take the heat for this kind of stuff.

Of course, Congress can certainly try to pass legislation denying funding for operations in Iran if it wants to. And it might even be worth doing, if only as a shot across the bow — though it’s worth considering the downside of introducing a resolution that would not only fail, but would probably be opposed even by a fair number of Democrats. Still, maybe it’s worth getting everyone on the record. And I suppose a narrowly worded resolution a la the Boland Amendment might have a chance of passage.