Sanders, Khanna Attempt to Stop Funds for Military Force Against Iran

January 4, 2020 Updated: January 4, 2020
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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Jan. 3 “to prohibit any funding for offensive military force in or against Iran without prior congressional authorization.”

“Today, we are seeing a dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East. A war with Iran could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars and lead to even more deaths, more conflict, more displacement in that already highly volatile region of the world. War must be the last recourse in our international relations. That is why our Founding Fathers gave the responsibility over war to Congress,” they said in a joint statement.

“Congressional inaction in the face of the threat of a catastrophic and unconstitutional Middle East conflict is not acceptable. After authorizing a disastrous, $738 billion military budget that placed no restrictions on this president from starting an unauthorized war with Iran, Congress now has an opportunity to change course. Our legislation blocks Pentagon funding for any unilateral actions this president takes to wage war against Iran without Congressional authorization.”

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Khanna and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), passed the House last year but didn’t make it into the final military funding bill that was passed just before Christmas.

If it did, Khanna said late Thursday, it would have prohibited funding for war with Iran unless Congress approves a war.

The amendment and another from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that was stripped from the final product “could have prevented tonight’s escalation,” he said.

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The site where top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed along with eight others in a U.S. strike the day before, outside the international airport road in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 4, 2020. (Ali Choukeir/AFP via Getty Images)
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Pedestrians walk past a portrait of slain Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on a main road in the Iranian capital Tehran on Jan. 4, 2020. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
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President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida, after the United States killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, on Jan. 3, 2020. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Gaetz said in a statement Friday that Trump doesn’t want to go to war Iran.

“If @potus *wanted* war w Iran there were plenty of opportunities. He didn’t go 2 war over US drones or foreign tankers. He said if Americans were targeted, heads would roll. Obama drew red lines & ignored them. @realDonaldTrump never will, but he doesn’t crave war, nor do I,” he said.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced another measure Friday. They said President Donald Trump doesn’t have the proper authority to declare war against Iran, arguing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force didn’t include the country.

They cited the War Powers Resolution (pdf), which states that ‘‘at any time that United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the president if the Congress so directs.”

The U.S. military has been introduced into hostilities as defined by the resolution against Iran, the lawmakers said.

“Congress hereby directs the president to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, by not later than the date that is 30 days after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force,” the measure stated.

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