Reining In That Dangerous Peace-Making

Greg Sargent gets Sen. Chris Murphy on record making an important point about the foreign policy debates going on in Congress:

Murphy asks why Congress is so much more eager to vote to restrict Obama’s ability to carry out a negotiated diplomatic settlement than it is to vote to restrict his ability to wage war. Murphy agrees with the White House that Senate authorization is not required for Obama to temporarily lift sanctions as part of an Iran deal — because that deal would not be a treaty — though he thinks Congress should probably vote directly on the deal at some point, perhaps soon after it is signed. But Murphy disagrees with the White House on its request for a too-broad, too-vague Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS, and wants Congress to vote to place limits on that authority. And these two things go together.

“Congress should be spending its time debating an AUMF,” Murphy tells me. “We have a war going on in Iraq and Syria that is unauthorized and extra-Constitutional. We should be voting on an AUMF, which is required by the Constitution, rather than debating an Iran nuclear deal which hasn’t even been signed.”

Even if you don’t agree with Murphy’s reading of constitutional powers, it’s interesting that so many (mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans) in Congress are really only worried about “executive overreach” when the president’s trying to avoid, not wage, war.

Some of these birds, of course, have exotic definitions of “war.” Sen. Tom Cotton, the de facto leader of the GOP when it comes to Iran policy, is angry that people accuse him of warmongering just because he likes the idea of a brisk, four-day bombing campaign against that country’s nuclear infrastructure. Yeah, maybe some random people would be killed, and there might be consequences afterwards, but hey, that’s not “war,” that’s getting their attention, right?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.