I have been discussing how the Congress is again willfully ignoring its constitutional duty on the declaration of war as our intervention in Syria expands. Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have fallen over each other to praise the attacks even though Congress never authorized the action. Hillary Clinton was calling for attacks in Syria just hours before the attack, as she did in Iraq, Libya and other past conflicts. The United States just attacked a foreign nation that had not attacked the United States. It was done with little consultation and no authorization from Congress. However, as with prior wars, the attacks remain politically popular so Congress is silent with the exception of a few members like Sen. Rand Paul. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) however has gone further to denounce Paul as simply “wrong” and virtually mock him as a nonentity in calling for such congressional authority. He is alone in the Senate, McCain insisted, in his demand that Congress fulfill its Article I duties. It is a sad moment for those who believe in a textualist or formalist approach to constitutional powers. All of those textualists who proudly embraced Neil Gorsuch are now apparently living constitutionalists as the subject turns to yet another war.
James Madison once said “the executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence.” As shown by the Syrian strikes (and passivity of Congress) wars are popular and can bring accolades to “strong leaders.” However, our politicians have shown that it is not simply the executive branch that is “most distinguished by its propensity to war” but also the legislative branch. Politicians however want to enjoy the popularity of wars without shouldering the responsibility should the war go badly. Thus, few of our hundreds of military interventions have been the result of declarations or even specific authorizations.
McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, refused to even respond to Paul’s principled demand for congressional authorization by saying “I don’t really react to Sen. Paul.” He added that Paul “doesn’t have any real influence in the United States Senate . . . I don’t pay any attention frankly to what Sen. Paul says.”
The same might be said about what Article I says.