Make Defense Policy Constitutional Again

Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Pedro Amador

Sen. Rand Paul Senator (R-KY)
Font Size:

Last week, at the end of the Obamacare debate, after the repeal bill failed by one vote, Senate leadership tried to slip in a unanimous consent agreement to move to the National Defense Authorization bill. I objected, and consideration was stopped.

Why I did that is very important. Of course, I am for a strong military and national defense. It is one of the few necessary and constitutional parts of our federal government. I want our troops to have what they need, and I want to modernize and fix things that are wrong in the military, which are things we can do working together on this authorization bill.

However, my constitutional duty isn’t simply to authorize spending on defense. To the contrary, my duty involves making sure our national defense, and anything else I vote for, adheres to our Constitution and protects our rights.

Currently, there are two areas of our defense policy that I believe are not constitutional or necessary. One is our continued fighting of wars in the Middle East, justified, if at all, by 15-year-old authorizations. The second is the power granted a few years ago to the executive by Congress to indefinitely detain an American citizen without trial.

Unconstitutional, unnecessary wars must end, now.

Indefinite detention of Americans must stop, now.

There are too many in my caucus who have not met a war they didn’t want to be in, and not met a right they were not willing to give up in the name of security. That’s why, as this bill was moving forward in the Senate, I asked for two amendments to the Defense bill (NDAA):

  1. Sunset the 2001/2002 Authorizations for Use of Force that were passed before Afghanistan and Iraq. We should not be in either country right now, but if we must be, we should debate a new authorization and get congressional approval for any war we engage in.
  2. Ban the practice of indefinite detention. Our Bill of Rights protects the right to a trial and to know what you are accused of. Wartime or not, Americans deserve to have our rights protected.

These amendments are bipartisan. They’re important. And the discussion on them is long overdue. I’ve attempted to engage on these issues for several years now on the NDAA, and I’ve been thwarted each time by the bill manager and Senate leadership.

So there was no way I was going to stand down last week and simply allow them to bring the bill forward without my amendments. It’s just that simple.

So I stood up to their middle-of-the-night assault on our rights, and I forced them to stand down.

I will not rest until these issues are on the Senate floor, and I won’t consent to any movement on any related bill.

It is long past time for us to end the 2001/2002 wars or at least end their 15-year-old authorization and debate them again. Wars shouldn’t last entire generations. We have lost too many lives and spent too much taxpayer money in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will soon hit the moment where men and women are sent to war who weren’t even born when the war was “authorized.” That’s not right.

Americans have soured on our continued military presence in these countries and the costs we are forced to bear.

They are also souring on being asked to give up their rights and freedoms in the name of security. From middle America to the White House, no one has been safe from the prying eyes and ears of an overreaching federal government. We cannot continue to have on the books a law that empowers that same government to also hold you without a trial. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we’ve fought for.

I want to end these injustices now. But at the very least, I will insist they be part of any defense bill considered by the U.S. Senate this year, so every Senator will have to debate them and vote on them.

Rand Paul has served as U.S. Senator from Kentucky since 2011.