President Donald Trump, in an interview with The Hill, claimed that he has no obligation to consult with or get approval from Congress to take military action. Trump said this about Congress: “I do like keeping them – they have ideas, they’re intelligent people, they’ll have some thoughts. I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress, but I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally.”
While Senator Jim Inhofe supported that position, and some other Republicans have, and while other presidents have taken steps without Congressional authority, Trump is of course wrong on this topic. First, Inhofe’s claim that we are at war with Iran is not accurate. While tensions are for sure escalating, only Congress may declare war. Since World War II, Congress has not formally done so, and the operations without express Congressional authority include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War of 2001 and the Iraq War of 2002. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11of the United States Constitution provides:
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;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress….
No war has been declared against Iran. And again, we are in a tense situation with Iran, caused at least in part by the actions of the current president abandoning a deal. But while he may take some immediate actions, Congress must make any declaration and must also agree to fund. As with most everything, Trump is wrong in his views of his powers.