Trump Says He Can Strike Iran Without Congressional Approval. Justin Amash and the Constitution Disagree.

The Republican congressman from Michigan shot back on Twitter.


Amid escalating tensions with Iran, President Donald Trump said on Monday that he does not need to seek congressional approval before carrying out a military strike.

"I like the idea of keeping Congress abreast, but I wouldn't have to do that," Trump said in an exchange with The Hill. According to Trump, "most people seem to disagree" with the notion that military action against Iran would require congressional oversight.

Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.), who has recently called for Trump's impeachment, is one who does, in fact, believe that the Constitution grants Congress, and Congress alone, the power to declare war.

The president's aggression against Iran intensified after the country shot down an unmanned U.S. drone on Thursday. In response, Trump approved and then called off a planned strike against the country that would have killed an estimated 150 Iranians. On Twitter, he explained that such retaliation was "not proportionate" to the damage inflicted by Iran.

While Amash lauded that decision, he did so with caution. "Glad the president pulled back from striking Iran but still waiting on the administration to make its case to Congress," he tweeted. "Once strikes begin, the administration cannot guarantee things will not spiral out of control. We must do everything possible to prevent another reckless war."

This isn't the first time that the libertarian-leaning congressman has spoken out against unauthorized foreign wars. When President Barack Obama ordered the bombing of ISIS targets in Syria in 2014, for example, Amash lamented the complete lack of congressional oversight. The absence of any "debating & voting on war," Amash said, is "irresponsible & immoral."

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  1. >>>The Republican congressman from Michigan shot back on Twitter.

    with or without Congressional approval?

    1. Wait – didn’t Obozo do a little bombing… not only without congressional approval, but without even NOTIFYING congress?
      Besides, if Iran is foolish enough to fire on US forces, our troops are not required to stand and take it. They can certainly shoot back.

  2. Why don’t they just speak out against war in general?

    1. Because nothing gives politicians and journalists a bigger erection than war. I mean, come on, war is exciting. Shit blows up. You would rather talk about some boring shit like criminal justice reform or cutting spending?

      1. I am bored. I kinda ran out of shows to watch.

        1. I mean I literally feel like I’ve watched every show ever made. Trump raped a women you say? Of course he did. Thank God for Nat Geo Yellowstone Live (do you capitalize Live, I don’t fucking know) to take the edge off. Yes Iran I think we are Satan.

          1. Legion fired back up Monday night.

          2. Only if Satan is kinda fat and kinda stupid, with a really short attention span and type II diabetes.

      2. And drinking and screwing in some press HQ hotel a few miles from the DMZ? Those were the good years.

    2. “We must do everything possible to prevent another reckless war.”

      Like that?

      1. Tweet about it

  3. I believe that Amash is not strictly correct, in that a mechanism exists for Trump to act within 60 days without approval. I read that it is an artifact of the Soviet “retaliation strike” days, and hasn’t been tested for Constitutionality. I am also aware that there a several caveats to the power, and that it is not unlimited in scope. So perhaps they are both some degree of wrong here.

    If anything, this story highlights the move away from substantive discourse, and toward “clapback” type discussions of complicated subjects.

    1. The issue is, if a president agrees that they’re taking action in that 60-day window, then they’re admitting that at the end of the window, they must either have congressional approval in hand, or they must bug out.

      No president wants to be constrained like that. So instead of doing what they should do, they come up with bullshit excuses.

      It’s bipartisan nonsense that Congress is more then happy to go along with, because they can avoid the blame if it turns out to have been unwise.

      1. It’s bipartisan nonsense that Congress is more then happy to go along with, because they can avoid the blame if it turns out to have been unwise.

        ^ This.

        1. Do you think this would be so, or at least at bad as it is, if we did not have political parties? And congress-pussies would not have to conform to party leadership (and act subservient to the President)?

          1. I’m not sure there’s any way to get rid of parties in our system, and the electoral college and winner-take-all provisions both enforce a two party system, specifically. But, the 17th Amendment made the parties more powerful in the Senate, when before you’d have had more cross party cooperation to do what’s good for States with common issues, and given the Congress as a whole more incentive to protect their prerogatives.

            1. “I’m not sure there’s any way to get rid of parties in our system,”

              I’m afraid you are correct. I suppose the constitution could be amended to either eliminate them or significantly limit them. Terms limits and the elimination of formal political parties would do our country wonders but I’m afraid nothing will change until the wheels come off….

      2. “No president wants to be constrained like that. So instead of doing what they should do, they come up with bullshit excuses.”

        Actually I think that today’s lawmakers, and POTUSes, have lost their imagination. In the good old days congress used to have great euphemisms to avoid a declaration of war. Korea was a “conflict”, and Viet Nam was a “police action”. Now that’s some serious avoidance (not that it made any difference, it’s all semantics).

    2. Amash is not even slightly correct.

      War Powers Act of 1973 (vetoed by Nixon, overridden by Congress and pressed into law)

      Congress already gave the Executive a 48 hour window to act before any notification. Forces can remain for 60 days. There is a 30 day withdrawal period after the 60 days is up.

      Can someone tell little Justin to read the laws that Congress enacted?

      BTW, not unconstitutional either, just unwise as Nixon warned.

  4. “”Justin Amash and the Constitution Disagree.””

    But Obama agrees with Trump.

    1. Obama agrees with Trump

      On more issues than most are willing to admit.

  5. Trump Says He Can Strike Iran Without Congressional Approval.

    Congress for the last five presidents (at least) agrees.

    Until Congress (as a whole) is willing to actually complain about the usurpation of their war-declaring power by the President, it’s not going to change.

    1. All 3 branches agree trump can.

  6. A declaration of war is like impeachment. We found ways to never do them. And what a conundrum if you think about it.

    1. For decades, Congress would never declare a war because they were loath to give another president the power that FDR had. Now that Congress seems to be OK with unlimited presidential power, a declaration of war seems possible again.

      1. Congress can also issue letters of marque and reprisal, which would be a great way to limit endless war but punish al-qaeda and Iran (if they attacked shipping, like pirates).

        1. I want to see a pro-pirate plank in the next Libertarian platform.

          1. Did not work out so well for Captain Kidd

            Shiver me timbers.

          2. Arrrggghhh you kidding meeee?

    2. We’ve had a couple of impeachments, and a few war declarations, but still a very good observation. I have hope for you yet, Tony.

      1. Tonys a piece of shit.

  7. But Trump ***CAN*** strike Iran without Congressional approval.

  8. Given that Iran never rescinded their declaration of war against the US made in the Khomeni era, one wonders how a Supreme Court case would shake out.

  9. The constitution does not restrict a president get Congressional approval before committing the US military to combat.

    It does enumerate congressional powers to issue letters of marque and reprisal and DoW, which would imply that at some point Congress has a say in how the US military is used.

    Under NAP, preemptive attacks are permissible as long as the threat is so credible and imminent that self-defense requires a preemptive strike. This is the sticky point where past governments have abused the public trust.

    Iran has threatened to nuke the USA but is not a massive threat yet. At some point they will be. Pallets of cash didnt help that.

    1. When did they threaten to nuke the USA? With what?

      Actually I could understand a limited immediate response to the downing of the drone. I have a theory about why we did not.

      The drone was hit by a mobile SAM battery. The Iranians immediately shut down the radar. By the time everything went to channels and a strike package was put together those things were long gone. So the only option was to hit fixed assets on bases. That would result in a lot of casualties and it was called off.

      So if this is going to be a thing a much more nimble approach would be better.

      Think of the many Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons shipments in Syria the past few years. They seemed to know everything and the strikes were pinpoint. Israel lost one plane (not the pilot) and a few small drones. If a missile or artillery hits in Israeli territory it is immediately followed by counter fire.

      In doing so Israel has actually prevented a big war by engaging in a clear strategy with well defined goals. I would really like to see that happen here.

      1. Iran says no need to increase missile range as can already hit U.S. forces

        “Our missiles’ range is 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), and that can be increased, but we believe this range is enough for the Islamic Republic as most of the U.S. forces and most of their interests in the region are within this range,” Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
        The United States says Iran’s missile program is a breach of international law because the missiles could carry nuclear warheads in the future.

        Funny too that Google has all the juicy Iran stuff on page 6 of a Google search about Iranian threats against the USA.

      2. This is not Vietnam. American anti-radiation Air-Surface missiles dont need radars to still be on.

        The USA now uses drones to collect all sorts of signals intel, instead of the old manned planes that did that dangerous job and were sitting ducks.

        Notice, the drone shot down was flying with another drone. Trump is allowing Iran to hang itself by collecting evidence for a casus belli

        All Iran has to do is stop attacking shipping in International Waters and shooting down drones in International Airspace.

  10. Ughhhhh clickbait at Reason

    Military strike != Formal declaration of war

    POTUS can order strikes, but not declare war.
    Congress can declare war, but can’t order strikes.

    It’s called Separation of Powers, and The Constitution is quite clear on which branch can do what (with the exception of an early conflict long-ago resolved by Marbury v Madison).

    Conflating two distinct actions as though they’re identical? I used to expect better of Reason, but any more I’m really not all that surprised.

    1. What would happen if Congress declared war and the president said; “Yeah, but I’m not ordering any troops deployed, or bombing campaigns.”?
      Declaring war is an administrative action, to put the country on a “war footing”.
      The Commander in Chief gets to say when military forces are used.
      All Congress can do is try to cut off funding but is then accused of “abandoning our soldiers”.

  11. What we have seen is that President Trump does what he wants with few consequences. The only thing I have heard he say he needs Congressional approval for is to give detained children soap, tooth brushes and diapers. That he can not do on his own.

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