President Biden’s War Powers Are Under Threat From A Bipartisan Senate Bill

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation aimed at limiting President Joe Biden’s war powers Wednesday, less than a week after Biden ordered missile strikes in Syria.

The bill’s sponsors, Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Republican Indiana Sen. Todd Young, argue Biden’s ordered strikes show that presidents will continue to stretch war powers “regardless of party,” Reuters reported Wednesday. The bill would rescind two decades-old military force authorizations Congress passed in 1991 and 2001. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have used the authorizations to justify airstrikes and other military operations in the Middle East for decades.

The bill would instead reinstate Congress’s constitutional authority over the declaration of war, limiting the president’s ability to take the type of unilateral military action that has become common in the executive branch.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) participates in a news conference following the bipartisan Senate vote on the War Powers Resolution on Iran at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Some Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats in voting to freeze President Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran, but fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a promised veto by Mr. Trump. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – FEB. 13: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) participates in a news conference following the bipartisan Senate vote on the War Powers Resolution on Iran at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

There has been consistent support in Congress for limiting existing presidential war powers. Both chambers passed a similar bill under President Donald Trump in May 2020. The bill had wide bipartisan support at the time but ultimately fell to a Trump veto.

Kaine and Young’s version of the bill appears to be gaining the same sympathy on both sides of the aisle. Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy also expressed openness to the bill to the Daily Caller.

“Senator Cassidy has and continues to support Congress reclaiming its Constitutional authority of declaring war. He is currently reviewing the Kaine-Young proposal,” Cassidy press secretary Molly Block told the Caller.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s position on the bill.

Biden ordered strikes on Thursday against facilities linked with Iranian-backed militias near Syria’s border with Iraq. The Department of Defense (DOD) statement did not specify whether the strikes inflicted casualties beyond the structures at the time. Biden’s strikes came in retaliation to Iranian-backed militias firing rockets at both the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and another U.S. base in Iraq in recent weeks.

“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria. These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” the DOD announced at the time. (RELATED: Iran Ends Nuclear Deal Commitment, Will No Longer Limit Uranium Enrichment)

“This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with Coalition partners. The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” the statement continued.