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Rand Paul: Congress Moves to Give the President Unlimited War Powers

In the near future, Congress will debate a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). I use the word “debate” lightly. So far, no hearings have been scheduled, and no testimony is likely to be heard unless something changes. That’s a shame, because this is a serious matter, and this is a deeply flawed AUMF.

For some time now, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to declare war. The status quo is that we are at war anywhere and anytime the president says so.

So Congress—in a very Congress way of doing things—has a “solution.” Instead of reclaiming its constitutional authority, it instead intends to codify the unacceptable, unconstitutional status quo.

It is clear upon reading the AUMF, put forward by Senators Tim Kaine and Bob Corker, that it gives nearly unlimited power to this or any other president to be at war whenever he or she wants, with minimal justification and no prior specific authority. [1]

That isn’t an AUMF. That isn’t Congress reclaiming its constitutional duties. That’s a complete rewriting of the role of the executive and of the constitutional separation of powers.

The new Kaine/Corker AUMF declares war on at least the following places and people: the Taliban, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS anywhere, al-Shabaab in Somalia and elsewhere, al-Qaeda in Syria, al-Nusra in Syria, the Haqqani network in Pakistan and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Niger, Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria, and associated forces (as defined by the president) around the globe.

That is simply breathtaking. Previous AUMFs have never included “associated forces,” and with good reason. Yet the Kaine/Corker AUMF not only codifies military action against those associated forces, but by conservative estimates authorizes war in over 20 nations.

Should Congress declare war? Absolutely. Are there places we will need to be at war? Yes. Should we be having this debate at this time? Yes, we should. But we must have a full debate, with all sides considered, and with the constitutional power of every branch of government clearly in mind.


It is indisputably clear that the authority given to the executive under the AUMF passed after 9/11 has become too broad and needs updating. But this Kaine/Corker AUMF is not the answer. Simply put, it provides even more expansive war-making authority to the executive branch than the status quo.

If this AUMF is passed, Congress will have chosen to make itself irrelevant on the issue of war.

Currently, use of force without congressional authority is limited by the War Powers Act to national emergency or imminent attack. No more, under this AUMF.

Kaine/Corker would forever allow the executive unlimited latitude in determining war, and would leave Congress debating such action after forces have already been committed.

Under this bill, Congress could only disapprove of war, turning the Constitution on its head. Even worse, any resolution of disapproval could be vetoed, meaning two thirds of Congress would need to disapprove of a war, rather than a majority to approve of one. That’s a huge, unwise, and unconstitutional change.

The Founders left the power to make war in the legislature on purpose and with good reason. They recognized that the executive branch is most prone to war. The Kaine/Corker AUMF would completely abdicate Congress’s power under Article I.

Handing war-making power from Congress to the executive branch is not an exercise in congressional power. It is the final and full abandonment of that power. It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and it should be stopped.

Rand Paul is the junior U.S. senator from Kentucky and a Republican.

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "Rand Paul: Congress Moves to Give the President Unlimited War Powers"

#1 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On May 6, 2018 @ 11:40 pm

hey Senator, you want to take back ‘war power’? stop writing blank checks to the DoD. Congress also hold the ‘power of the purse’.

#2 Comment By res publica USA On May 7, 2018 @ 1:54 am

Everything we know – from the Constitution, from history, and from what’s in our bones, tells us that presidential war powers must be tightly constrained. It isn’t, and if this bill passes it may never be. It should be stopped, as a basic matter of protecting what’s left of the republic and constitutional government.

#3 Comment By good luck On May 7, 2018 @ 2:37 am

It now looks like Trump put American boots on the ground in Yemen.


That amounts to confirmation of a new Middle East war, this time by a President who promised to get us out of the Middle East. It’s not just a new battlefield. We were already involved in Yemen helping the Saudis target and refuel and enforce the starvation blockade. This is an escalation to troops on the ground, which makes us a party to the ongoing Saudi war crimes, starving innocent civilians, then bombing and spreading cholera among the starving. And Trump dragged us into this in a gutless, sneaking way. Afraid to tell his voters that he was (yet again) betraying them. He doesn’t even seem to have informed Congress, probably because he has complete contempt for Congress.

Congress’s failure to control Bush II, Obama, and now Trump is allowing disasters to proliferate and undermining democratic governnment in America. The AUMF not only shouldn’t pass, but Congress needs to actively stop the president from doing more damage to America with costly, blowback-ridden wars.

Anything Sen. Paul or any other elected representative can do to make this happen will make him a hero to the growing number of Americans appalled by Presidents entangling us in more and more of these staggeringly expensive foreign messes that only benefit parasitic foreign states.

#4 Comment By Johann On May 7, 2018 @ 8:30 am

“The new Kaine/Corker AUMF declares war on at least the following places and people: the Taliban, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS anywhere, al-Shabaab in Somalia and elsewhere, al-Qaeda in Syria, al-Nusra in Syria, the Haqqani network in Pakistan and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Niger, Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria, and associated forces (as defined by the president) around the globe.”

So, if the authority includes associated forces, I guess we will be at war with ourselves? Much of the equipment and money sent to the Syrian rebels went to Al Qaeda and Al Nusra.

#5 Comment By Dan Green On May 7, 2018 @ 8:35 am

Seems to me when we get involved or start a war we kind of creep into them as we commit weapons resources, and boots on the ground over a period of time, with no involvement with Congress. The short of it is if Congress had to authorize a war they would never get around to it, therefore restraining the Pentagon, and the CIA.

#6 Comment By Stephen On May 7, 2018 @ 10:02 am

Sen. Paul is right, of course, but this piece carries much less weight after he voted to confirm Pompeo. He has great rhetoric, but we need more than that.

#7 Comment By Old Faithful On May 7, 2018 @ 11:03 am

@Agree with Stephen above. Go along / get along doesn’t inspire much confidence or enthusiasm, Sen. Paul. Try sticking to your guns. Your friend Trump will be out of the White House in 2020 because he didn’t.

#8 Comment By sglover On May 7, 2018 @ 11:29 am

I was hoping the good senator might reveal exactly how he intends to fold when it really matters. Paul’s a great one for proclaiming “concerns” and then not delivering when the important votes come up.

Whatever his actual conduct, stern, no-nonsense, “reason”-loving glibertarians can always be goosed into cutting him slack, via their sloppy nostalgia for the old man.

#9 Comment By Tom S. On May 7, 2018 @ 11:41 am

Rand Paul: Here’s a tip. If you are so against the executive branch taking power that should belong to the legislative branch, try voting against the President every once in a while, even though he is a Republican.

#10 Comment By Fred Bowman On May 7, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

Wonder if the Kaine/Corker AUMF bill is passed if any groups will go to throughs the Federal courts to question the legality of such a bill in regards to the Constitution? I would certainly hope so, as the passing of this bill will eventually lead America to a major war without the consent of Congress or the American people. In addition it a damn good way to eventually turn our constitutional republic into a more autocratic regime.

#11 Comment By pete wagner On May 7, 2018 @ 12:43 pm

Do they see us as their tool to be used at their whim?

#12 Comment By Jon On May 7, 2018 @ 12:55 pm

Some elected leaders display magical thinking perpetuating the notion that declarations alone can transform reality. What kind of a call to action is it to enlist members of Congress to stop the further erosion of its powers by one who purports to be a man of principle but backs down when under the heat of powerful opposition? Who then at Foggy Bottom can the public trust?

#13 Comment By b. On May 7, 2018 @ 1:31 pm

Senator, given that Kaine-Porker is unconstitutional on its face, I am sure that the dissenting Senators – minority as they might be – will have the standing to take the issue to the Supreme Court. A NO vote is not enough.

Meanwhile, We the People have the matching responsibility to not re-elect a single of the Senators and Representatives that are conspiring to eviscerate the Constitution they are sworn to uphold and protect.

#14 Comment By b. On May 7, 2018 @ 1:48 pm

Give the Pompeo confirmation, it will be a wonderfully clarifying moment to see Congress – all 535 of them – vote on this bill, and then move one.

The Founders clearly did not find a mechanism to handle the impact of war on the republic. The Constitution should have mandated an actual declaration of war with fixed formal requirements, it should have mandated renewals that specific authorization every three months, it should have mandated separate budget appropriations as well as a freeze of all general defense spending during hostilities. It should have mandated dedicated war bonds, a dedicated war tax, and prevented the use of debt or general revenue.

Given how craven and lawless our elected representatives are conducting themselves, the Constitution should have also required that any Senator and Representative that votes on a declaration of war in the affirmative will no longer be eligible for re-election, or election to public office,and that a President serving as Commander-in-Chief, under the direction of Congress, following a declaration of war cannot stand for re-election either, and that Congress, on failing to renew the authorization to use military force, has to confirm that the President will be permitted to serve out the remainder of his or her term.

Our representatives like to use the phrase “skin in the game”. Given that this is true for every enlisted man or woman, we can expect our politicians to accept that, if not their lives, then at least they career is at stake.

But then, the Constitution could simply state the same as the UN Charter – that elective, aggressive, preventive wars of choice are illegal and unconstitutional regardless of what Congress puts to a vote.

#15 Comment By LouisM On May 7, 2018 @ 3:22 pm

The danger (as I understand it) is that national defense, foreign police action/intervention, war are too time sensitive to delay action waiting for congress.

However, I think the military budget needs to be broken up and approved separately by congress and not just a lump sum approval. The VA, foreign bases, foreign military aid, capital equipment maintenance, military payroll and benefits, capital procurement and foreign intervention/war all need to be separate and distinct.

Other than 911 which was a terrorist attack not an attack from a foreign nation, left it a vague area our nation has never faced before. How and who does one attack if the attacker is not a foreign state?

Other than WWII and Korea, there really hasn’t been a threat to our nation which was so time sensitive that it could not be debated for congressional approval. For that reason, I support restricting war powers…but I would modify them based on criticality and time sensitivity.
1) Extremely critical and time sensitivity can be made by the President but the President must justify his case before congress and the American people.
2) In less critical and time sensitive can be decided by the President, Leader of the House and Leader of the Senate. If the people of the Congress stand against it then the presidents powers should be restricted.
3) Below that, a full declaration of war by congress should be required.

The President and his generals need to make the case to the American people. It is their taxes and it is their childrens lives and lets face the fact that 2 oceans do not insulate us from intercontinental ballistic missiles, biological/chemical/EMP forms of retaliation so any foreign aggression places our homeland at risk. This is not to say we become cowards like the Swedes or neutral like the Swiss…the US is a great power in global competition…our nation will always be a target (sometimes peaceful, sometimes covert, sometimes overt and destructive).

#16 Comment By Sid_finster On May 7, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

Saith the man who ran as a decaf neocon and then voted to confirm Pompeo, speaking of principles.

#17 Comment By David Nash On May 7, 2018 @ 7:04 pm

Senator, with all due respect, Congress effectively gave away the store in the Bush administration.

It’s a bit late to worry about getting it back.

And please stop sending me requests to donate money to your bank account to “save the nation”.

#18 Comment By Karen Holmes On May 7, 2018 @ 7:28 pm

There is a misunderstanding in the US legal system that is causing chaos. Many people see two levels–Constitutional law and federal law–when there are three levels. What is oftentimes left out is Universal law, which is where we get our unalienable rights, and it is based on seven principles–equality, liberty, freedom, compassion, abundance, capacity and tolerance, and these principles allow a swinging pendulum return to the straight and narrow. There are always three levels–the principles, the power and the project–and so when the principles are left out, it is possible for our government to justify power games that are oppressive to the people, and deny the people our unalienable rights.

For example, people who have been dragged into a war lack the principle of equality, and the first requirement for conflict resolution is that both sides must be considered equal. If you consider a court case to be like a war, for a fair trial, both sides must be considered equal under the law. Wars are started by people who believe they are more important than another, and therefore have the right to put the other down.

If you leave out Universal Law, a policy such as maximum pressure can be considered constitution, but it is unlawful based on Universal Law, and it leads to perpetual wars.

Universal law says, “what you do to another will be done to you,” so when you put another down, you go down and the other goes up. This law applies to every atom in the Universe.

Congress has the constitutional authority to wage war, just as Americans have the right to bear arms, but no one has the right to kill another person. We can defend our country, but not wage war on another nation.

#19 Comment By Miguel On May 7, 2018 @ 8:50 pm

I agree with Johann here. These wars are a mean to sell more weapons and keep the U.S. military industry working. Which moves a lot of money.

Possibly part of the money the Senators receive as payment, even legal and regular, since the money must come from some place.

But yes, if power is to be controlled, then there must be controls against unilateral action in a democracy. And yes, it is possible that a relaxation enough of such controls could render democracy void. Not to say that the more violence you do, the more likely you end doing violence where/who wasn’t in the “best” of your interest to do.

But I guess to live is to take risks, uh?

By the way, I am almost surprised neither North Korea nor Venezuela weren’t mentioned. Venezuela threat is ridiculous at best, but since Trump has already asked other latinamerican presidents if they would support such a “(final) solution for the venezuelan problem”… (Yes, I know genocide is not part of the proposal. Nevertheless, even “only normal war” is horrible enough).

#20 Comment By TR On May 7, 2018 @ 10:43 pm

Judging from the comments, I think Senator Paul picked the wrong forum in which to air his views. I wonder what he could have done to make his credibility so suspect?

#21 Comment By Seer On May 8, 2018 @ 7:34 am

Paul and others use this to hide behind. They have always had the power to control all of this, it’s called “power of the purse.” STOP FUNDING ALL THIS CRAP! Until they stop pushing taxpayer monies to their “defense” friends we (except the ruling elite) will continue to bleed monetarily as well as physically.

#22 Comment By Dieter Heymann On May 8, 2018 @ 9:41 am

Wars make central governments more powerful. Wars of hegemon’s make their central governments all-powerful on the issue of war and peace. That has happened here even before 9/11.
Senator Rand is mistaken to believe that the Congress can turn this genie back into its bottle. Only we the people can.

#23 Comment By Robert A. Byers On May 8, 2018 @ 9:44 am

If this bill is passed so will the Republic of the United States.

#24 Comment By Robert A. Byers On May 8, 2018 @ 9:46 am

If this bill is passed America will never be great again, the Republic of the USA will be no more.

#25 Comment By rta On May 8, 2018 @ 10:01 am

If congress had voted on all of our adventures we’d be in the exact same situation as we are now. War is the only thing both parties overwhelmingly agree on and voting on them would only confirm that. And Rand Paul has a lot of nerve after caving and voting for war monger Pompeo. He’ll show his true colors again if his vote is needed to confirm the next torture, er I mean, CIA director, Gina Haspel.

#26 Comment By IAEA On May 8, 2018 @ 10:36 am

I agree with b…. and, Trump dare not change Iran nuclear agreement May 12…if he does, he’s out of favor forever

#27 Comment By delia ruhe On May 8, 2018 @ 1:34 pm

“If this AUMF is passed, Congress will have chosen to make itself irrelevant on the issue of war.”
. . . not just on the issue of war but rather, on every issue but one: Destroying the current president. It began with Bill Clinton, but the Republicans stupidly impeached him for his sins while overlooking his numerous crimes. The destruction of Obama involved the almost total Republican obsession with Obamacare to the extent that the bill proposing its complete annihilation was brought to the floor over 50 times. Now the Democrats have contracted the disease and have spent their time in Congress manufacturing a propaganda narrative commonly called Russiagate. They don’t appear to understand that if you want impeachment of Trump to work, you have to impeach him for “high crimes and misdemeanours” for which there is actual, irrefutable evidence. But the Dems are so drunk on their own Kool-Aid that they wouldn’t recognize evidence if it jumped up and bit them in the ass.

What makes this time-consuming total obsession with destroying presidents possible? Well, once you’ve completed your dial-for-dollars and sold off your Responsibility to Govern to the highest bidder before every election—meaning that the lobbyists draft the legislation, tell Congresspeople how to vote on it, and even supply them with the talking points should they manage to get their faces on TV—once that R2G is exclusively in the hands of the private sector, there’s plenty of time for plotting the ruin of the present Oval Office incumbent—or the legacy of the previous one (as Obama’s total destruction was not completed while he was in office). And now, in addition, having put paid to that pesky responsibility for declaring war by legally turning it over to the most unstable, reckless, and mendacious president in living memory, Congress will be further advancing progress of what’s left of American democracy down that slippery slope of Decline-and-Fall.

#28 Comment By Cal On May 8, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

The Power to declare war is vested in the House of Representatives and Senate, not in the PEOPLE who SERVE, it is NOT theirs to give away, to trade, etc. they do NOT take that authority with them when they leave. It is a power that comes with the POSITION they are currently occupying. It is a DUTY that is assigned to that/those position(s). If they cannot or do not want to do that duty, along with the rest of the duties that are found in writing within the US Constitution that comes with the position/office, then they must be removed.

If President Trump keeps sending Americans to undeclared by the Congress wars, then he is committing criminal actions, and, BTW, so are those following those UNLAWFUL orders – think felonies, Perjury, etc, etc, etc.

Via the REQUIRED Oath to “Support and Defend” the US Constitution, all who serve within the US Military are REQUIRED to know what the US Constitution requires of them. One thing it requires is that they say “NO” to unlawful order or face charges for following them. There should not be one soldier in a foreign nation, they should NOT be fighting, it is treason. Those that are officers and give out those orders under threat of violence, prison, etc are *terrorists, and **traitors. They too are Oathbound to the US Constitution, not to any General/Admiral, President, etc. Not in THIS nation.

The Presidential Oath, US Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8: ‘Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, PRESERVE, PROTECT, AND DEFEND the Constitution of the United States.”’

Notice that the presidential Oath of Office is placed AFTER the beginning clauses which set forth the organization of the executive department, and BEFORE the ending clauses that specify the contours of the President’s DELEGATED power. ALL who SERVE AS a US President are required to take the oath after the office is assumed, but before the powers of that office can be lawfully executed. The location and phrasing of the Oath of Office Clause strongly suggest that it is not empowering, but that the clause limits how the President’s “executive power” is to be exercised.

*28 C.F.R. Section 0.85 Domestic Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

**Treason – Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States provides:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

There are three elements that must be present for an offense to constitute treason:
— an obligation of allegiance to the legal order,
— intent, and then
— action to violate that obligation.

By abdicating the war powers delegated to the Congress, those that serve within the Congress are meeting the three requirements of TREASON. Because government is always force (backed by force) this actions, and others they have already committed qualify as *domestic terrorism.

There has already been enough Treason and *Terrorism done that has not been prosecuted, We the people, whose government this is, and whom those who SERVE WITHIN the government are required to represent, must hold them accountable for these crimes against our nation, against the American people, Against our legitimate government which they are Oath bound to “Support and Defend”.

As all can see I agree with Rand Paul on this matter. We must immediately ask for their resignations, stop any retirement pay, because they did NOT do the duty as is found written within the US Constitution so did NOT earn $1.00 of what their pay and retirement is.

James Wilson: “I leave it to every gentleman to say whether the enumerated powers are not as accurately and MINUTELY DEFINED, as can be well done on the same subject, in the same language…nor does it, in any degree, go beyond the particular enumeration; for, when it is said that Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper, those words are LIMITED AND DEFINED by the following, “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers”, it is saying no more than that the powers we have already particularly given (enumerated), shall be effectually carried into execution.”

#29 Comment By Eileen Kuch On May 8, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

Delia, you made a very good point here, Congress has, indeed, violated the Constitution when it abrogated its power to declare war, and, in doing so, destroyed the Constitutional Republic and installed a dictatorship in its place.
The Founding Fathers have to be spinning in their graves at the total irresponsibility and laziness of the last several Congresses, including this one. The last Congressional declaration of war was made in December 1941, and there weren’t any further war declarations since.

#30 Comment By Making war on the US Constitution On May 9, 2018 @ 6:37 am

Making war on the US Constitution is Treason.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 9, 2018 @ 3:02 pm

Well Senator I can only,

in true form of libertarian gymnastics your example has not matched your your contentions.

#32 Comment By Barbara On May 9, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

Wow, it was so refreshing to read so many thoughtful, reasoned, and we’ll written comments. Thank you all, who believe and promote the rule of law (including constitutional duties), over the emotional whims currently whiplashing our legislative and executive branches.

#33 Comment By Robert Bruce On May 13, 2018 @ 7:26 pm

You want to stop the insanity the answer is rather simple, but rather deadly! Regime change in DC, Great Heathen Army style!!!! All kidding(not really) aside, MR. Paul should have been in office long enough to figure out that the 3 branches of government is nothing more than a massive fraud/national prop anymore. It is also pathetic at this point to expect this grouping of lawless sellouts to actually give a damn about the law. I mean that hero of neo conservatism George W. Bush called the Constitution just a god damn piece of paper, so what does on expect. Conservatives in general are really losing face, as there really isn’t anything worthy in this nation to be “conserved”. The whole thing needs to be gutted!!!!!!!