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‘Politicians in Washington need courage to vote on wars,’ lawmaker lashes out at Iran hawks

‘Politicians in Washington need courage to vote on wars,’ lawmaker lashes out at Iran hawks
A handful of Republicans have joined the chorus urging the Trump administration to hold back on war with Iran, reminding the president the Constitution doesn’t allow him to unilaterally declare war - and the voters don’t want it.

Politicians in Washington need the courage to actually vote on [military action overseas] and decide what’s worthy of spilling American blood and what isn’t,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) told the Hill, adding that “there are Republicans who are not neocons, who are not interventionists” who support reining in the Trump administration’s efforts to unilaterally plunge the country into another quagmire.

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Gaetz is working with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) on a bipartisan resolution to affirm that 2001’s Authorization for Use of Military Force - the resolution used to back up every American military intervention since the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan - does not cover Iran.

President Trump ran as a different kind of Republican - one that wanted to end wars, not start them,” Gaetz said. “These circumstances that we see erupting around the world don’t always get better when we go and put US troops on the ground…We don’t always serve as the most stabilizing force when we’re disrupting regimes.”

The Democrat-controlled House also slipped an amendment to repeal the AUMF into the nearly $1 trillion spending bill it passed on Wednesday, though no Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill and it is unlikely to see the light of day in the Senate.

Many in Congress are concerned the administration is cooking up a justification for twisting the AUMF into authorization for war in Iran, given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s insistence on connections between Iran and al-Qaeda. The AUMF was designed to give the president the power to wage war on “al-Qaeda and its allies,”  but previous presidents stretched the definition to a breaking point. By 2013 it had been invoked 30 times to justify deployments and detentions, according to Congressional Research Services. Members of Congress have long demanded the resolution be replaced with something more precise.

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Suspicions the administration was trying to stretch the AUMF even further escalated after State Department special envoy for Iran Brian Hook refused to answer multiple direct questions regarding whether the Trump administration believes the shopworn 2001 resolution applies to Iran during a Wednesday hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The administration's designation of the IRGC as a "terrorist organization" in April also takes on added significance in light of Pompeo's evidence-free statements.

There are no credible links” between al-Qaeda and Iran, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) pointed out, calling any application of the 2001 AUMF to Iran “inappropriate” and promising to oppose “any president, Republican or Democrat, who thinks they can go to war without congressional approval.”

Even Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) - Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, and hardly less of a hawk - called the purported link between al-Qaeda and Iran “a real bizarre stretch.”

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A vocal minority of Republican senators, however, are ready to dispense with any checks on presidential war-making powers, constitution be damned. “I’m good to go on that,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina) told reporters when asked if Trump had the legal authorization to go to war in Iran.

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