WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, on Tuesday authored an op-ed in War on the Rocks making the case that U.S. national security is stronger when Congress is involved and outlining his new legislation that would get Congress back to the table. In the piece, Murphy laid out his sweeping, bipartisan legislation to overhaul Congress’s role in national security and safeguard Congress’s prerogatives in the use of military force, emergency powers, and arms exports.
“In early 2020, former Vice President Mike Pence made a curious argument on social media: According to Pence, Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani knew about al-Qaeda’s plans for the Sept. 11 attacks beforehand and worked to facilitate them. For those of us who have watched the executive branch, administration after administration, expand its authority to make war without congressional authorization, the intent was clear. Pence was trying to tie Iran to the 2001 attacks in order to justify starting a new war with Iran without coming to Congress for authorization first,” Murphy wrote.
“While both Democratic and Republican presidents have shared the task of expanding presidential emergency powers, the fault for congressional marginalization lies with our body, too. The era of permanent war and non-state antagonists makes declaring war more difficult and nuanced. Avoiding oversight of arms sales is convenient, absolving Congress of backbreaking work and allowing the legislative branch to simply armchair quarterback and provide 20/20 hindsight criticism when deals go wrong. Congress has done a pretty good job of making itself increasingly irrelevant over the years as it regards national security choices,” Murphy continued.
Murphy wrote: “Congress should start clawing back its constitutional national security prerogatives. This task should start with updating the antiquated statutes that make real the powers given to the legislative branch by the Constitution. The National Security Powers Act, the first modern, comprehensive outline of Congress’s national security powers, is the vehicle by which Congress can rein in this nearly blank check authority. Over the past year, Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and I have met with advocates, experts, and scholars to craft a sweeping, but achievable, proposal to reset the foreign policy balance between the Congress and the executive branch.”
“The commander in chief should always have the right to defend the United States and our armed forces under immediate threat of attack. But the country makes better national security decisions as a whole when Congress has a seat at the table. American democracy is stronger for it,” Murphy concluded. “Congress should reform a system that gives us endless wars, unlimited arms sales, and ill-advised trade wars that leave America weaker in the world. Members of Congress owe it to the American people to ensure that these consequential decisions to bring American power to bear are made carefully, thoughtfully, and sparingly. Bold legislation like the National Security Powers Act is long overdue.”
On Tuesday, Murphy along with U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), introduced bipartisan legislation to reclaim Congress’s critical role in national security matters. The National Security Powers Act specifically safeguards congressional prerogatives in the use of military force, emergency powers and arms exports. In each of these cases, the president is required to consult congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising the powers in question. Any congressional authorization will have to meet specific requirements, including an automatic sunset. Under the National Security Powers Act, any activities lacking such authorization will face an automatic funding cutoff after a specified number of days. You can read more about the bill here. Rep. James P. McGovern (MA-02) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
You can read Murphy’s full op-ed here.