Congress: Please Don’t Ask Us to Declare War; We Might Say No

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[King George III has, among other things,] kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Declaration of Independence


The Congress shall have Power … To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years….

U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.


"[A vote on going to war against ISIS] is not necessary and I don't think we need to do it. We'll see what the president lays out. That will be more dispositive."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

"[Although the president doesn't need our approval,] it certainly is helpful to have Congress fully engaged."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

“What if [a presidential request for war] comes over and [Congress] can’t pass it? That would be a disaster. And what if you put so many conditions on it that it makes any military operations ineffective? That’s what I worry about."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)


The Congress shall have Power … To be fully engaged, as is certainly helpful, in the declaring of War; and to declare War at the request of the President, provided that Congress shall not Fail to declare War should the President so request;

To raise and support permanent Standing Armies and to appropriate Money for the Arming of local Police Forces.

U.S. Const. art. I, § 8 (as amended).

Just FYI, I'm not really opposed to bombing ISIS, I realize no Congress has ever turned down a president who has asked for a declaration of war anyway, and I agree that a formal declaration of war is not necessarily required for the president to use force in every situation. But here we have leaders—from both parties—of the only branch to which the Constitution actually gives the power to declare war suggesting that the Executive should not ask the Legislature for war authority because it might not vote to grant everything he asks.

You can think about that for a while, or you can just bang your head on your desk. Same result.

On the topic of standing armies and heavily armed police forces, you should read Radley Balko's book Rise of the Warrior Cop, which makes startlingly clear that virtually every community in America now has at least one SWAT team (often with armored vehicles) and that you have almost no protection against them breaking down your door without warning, whether or not they have a warrant. He makes a pretty good case that this is the equivalent of the "standing army" conducting searches and seizures at will that Jefferson et al. were so pissed off about to begin with.

They wrote some other stuff about that too, but it also has been amended. Sleep well!