Yet Again, Congress Is Too Scared to Assert Its Warmaking Powers

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Our Congress is really a piece of work when it comes to national security. In 2011, President Obama announced that he could go to war against Libya without congressional approval. Congress hemmed and hawed, but in the end was unable to agree to do anything about it. Two years later members of Congress were vocal about Obama’s lack of action against Syria when it was revealed that the Assad regime had been using chemical weapons. Obama eventually responded and asked Congress for approval to take military action. Congress did nothing. Now we have yet another war, this time against ISIS, and Obama asked for congressional approval months ago. Result: nothing. Members of Congress would rather be free to lambaste Obama on the campaign trail than to actually commit themselves to a strategy.

So now what? HuffPo’s Jennifer Bendery reports that Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.) added a clause to the 2016 defense spending bill stating that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force” against ISIS. It passed, but only barely. Steve Benen is acerbic:

Right. So, the Obama administration launched airstrikes in August 2014. The president called on Congress to authorize the mission in December 2014. Obama devoted part of his State of the Union address to this in January 2015. The White House even sent draft legislative language to Capitol Hill in February 2015.

And in June 2015, a committee was willing to endorse a non-binding measure that said Congress really should, someday, do something to meet its constitutional obligations.

That’s it. That’s as far as lawmakers have been willing to go.

Indeed, much the committee didn’t even want to even go this far. When Barbara Lee urged members to support her proposal, the committee chairman held a voice vote and deemed it defeated. When Lee insisted on a roll call, it passed 29 to 22, overcoming Republican opposition. (All 22 “no” votes came from GOP members.)

In other words, nearly half the committee wasn’t even willing to go this far.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Congress. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend