Reason Roundup

No Troops in Ukraine Without Congressional Approval, Say Lawmakers

Plus: Republican policy priorities, SCOTUS to take same-sex wedding website refusal case, and more...


An issue that unites Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) and Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.)? The unlikely pair is part of a large and bipartisan group of lawmakers demanding that President Joe Biden seek congressional approval before directly involving U.S. troops in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

For the record, Biden has not indicated that he wants U.S. troops to get involved. In fact, he's said directly the opposite, on multiple occasions. Military action is "not on the table," the president declared in early December. "There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine," Biden said in January. "I will not send American servicemen to fight in Ukraine," Biden reiterated again on February 15.

But things can change quickly in times of crises. And the U.S. doesn't have a great track record on this front. (Congress hasn't formally declared war since World War II.) So, preemptively setting up an expectation that Biden must get congressional approval in this case is certainly a good thing.

"The American people, through their representatives in Congress, deserve to have a say before U.S. troops are placed in harm's way or the U.S. becomes involved in yet another foreign conflict," wrote 43 U.S. members of Congress in a February 22 letter to Biden.

The letter was signed by lawmakers across the ideological spectrum, including Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) and Republican Reps. Thomas Massie (Ken.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), and Andy Biggs (Ariz.).

(It looks like we're seeing an exception to the rule that strongly bipartisan ideas are generally the worst!)

"As you evaluate your possible course of action to address the potential conflict between Russia and Ukraine, we write to reassert the war powers vested in Congress under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973," their letter opens.

"If the ongoing situation compels you to introduce the brave men and women of our military into Ukraine … we ask that your decisions comport with the Constitution and our nation's laws by consulting with Congress to receive authorization before any such deployment," it goes on. "We underscore than an imminent or active attack by Russian would compel you, under Section 8(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to seek specific Congressional authorization if you aim to leave any remaining U.S. advisers, trainers, special forces, or other U.S. military personnel in areas of these imminent or active hostilities. You must also receive congressional approval before initiating any pre-emptive strike."

"The American people, through their representatives in Congress, deserve to have a say before U.S. troops are placed in harms (sic) way or the U.S. becomes involved in yet another foreign conflict," the lawmakers conclude.

The Biden administration is now calling Russia's actions in Ukraine an invasion (while Donald Trump calls it "genius").

"We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia's latest invasion into Ukraine," Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser, said on Tuesday morning. "An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway."

And on Tuesday afternoon, Biden said in a speech that we were seeing the "beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine" and announced more economic sanctions on Russia.

Meanwhile, here's what Trump had to say on the subject:

It's doesn't actually sound like Trump approves of the invasion—"this never would have happened … had I been in office," he says. But he clearly admires Vladimir Putin's chutzpah, calling Putin's portrayal of the invasion as a peacekeeping mission to recognize the independence of eastern Ukrainian territories "genius" and Putin himself "very savvy."


Republican Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) has put out a new comprehensive policy plan for the party. While containing some good ideas—"Nation-building does not work, we will not waste our treasure or troops doing it"; "we will drastically simplify the tax code"; "we will enact equal opportunity in education (school choice)"—a lot of it hovers somewhere between not great, awful, and utter gibberish.

For instance, one plank says "we will make it a federal crime for any prosecutor, including the US Department of Justice, to pursue prosecution based on political ideology," while the plan also declares that "socialism will be treated as a foreign combatant which aims to destroy our prosperity and freedom."

You can find the whole thing here.


Can entrepreneurs be forced to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies? The matter is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Court agreed to hear 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a case involving a website design firm whose owner doesn't want to design sites for same-sex weddings. Refusing to do so, however, would put the firm—303 Creative—in violation of Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act. Reason's Scott Shackford wrote about the case yesterday:

Smith counters that she isn't refusing to serve LGBT customers, but she "cannot create websites that promote messages contrary to her faith, such as messages that condone violence or promote sexual immorality, abortion, or same-sex marriage," according to her petition to the Supreme Court. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has taken the side of the Colorado Civil Rights Division and ruled that the law was being neutrally applied and not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. Colorado could legally require Smith to design and host sites for gay weddings and could furthermore prohibit her from putting a message on her website stating that she would not due to her religious beliefs.

More here.


• If you want to help Ukrainians, welcome more of them to the U.S.

• Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has declared that performing gender reassignment surgeries on or prescribing puberty blockers to people under age 18 "can legally constitute child abuse."

• The three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery have been convicted of a federal hate crime. But, as Reason's Jacob Sullum points out, "all three defendants are already serving life sentences in state prison for murdering Arbery, the federal convictions won't have any practical effect on their punishment." The situation is a reminder of the problems with federal hate crime prosecutions, Sullum suggests.

• "War in Europe shouldn't be an excuse to trample free speech in the U.S.," writes Joel Mathis.

• Justin Trudeau's financial crackdown on protesters will make bitcoin and cash more popular, writes J.D. Tuccille.