Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Anti-Iran War Legislation Percolating

Amidst heightened tensions that a US war on Iran may be imminent, on January 18, 2007, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) will hold a press conference to announce H.J.Res.14, a resolution he co-authored with Rep. Jack Murtha to demand that the president seek congressional authorization before initiating the use of force against Iran.

The resolution states:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of
America in Congress assembled,


(a) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—No provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of military force by the United States against Iran.

(b) REQUIREMENTS.—Absent a national emergency created by attack by Iran, or a demonstrably imminent attack by Iran, upon the United States, its territories or possessions or its armed forces, the President shall consult with Congress, and receive specific authorization pursuant to law from Congress, prior to initiating any use of military force against Iran.

But, as an HJRes, the Jones-Murtha bill would require the signature of the President, which not very likely to ever happen. While such a resolution helps to bring attention to the issue, the ability for it to gain traction is actually pretty limited.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.Con.Res. 33 on January 16 along with 18 other co-sponsors, also including Mr. Murtha. This “Sense of Congress” resolution cites Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, which grants Congress the power to declare war. It concludes with:

“Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),

That Congress--
(1) strongly believes initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval does not fall within the President's `Commander-in-Chief' powers under the Constitution;

(2) rejects any suggestion that Public Law 107-40, the authorization of force resolution approved in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, explicitly or implicitly, extends to authorizing military action against Iran, including over its nuclear program;

(3) rejects any suggestion that Public Law 107-243, the authorization of force resolution approved by Congress to go to war with Iraq, explicitly or implicitly, extends to authorizing military action against Iran, including over its nuclear program; and

(4) strongly and unequivocally believes that seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action against Iran is not discretionary, but is a legal and constitutional requirement.”

Nothing has yet been introduced on the Senate side, though rumors abound and we will likely see something in the near future.

What is needed even more, however, is a joint resolution with a positive approach calling on the US to constructively engage Iran, as has been recommended by numerous bi-partisan commissions and study groups, including the Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton; a 2004 working group established under the Council on Foreign Relations and co-chaired by Robert Gates and Zbigniew Brzezinski; and a 2001 Atlantic Council of the United States Working Group, co-chaired by Lee H. Hamilton, James Schlesinger and Brent Scowcroft.

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