Rep. McGovern Forces House to Vote Yes or No on War

Congressman Jim McGovern has introduced this privileged resolution: PDF with the remarks that follow. This will force the U.S. House of Representatives to vote yes or no on the U.S. war in Iraq/Syria that is underway and which the White House has made clear will remain underway regardless of what Congress does, and which resolution Congress will of course vote down. The gain, I suppose, lies in the number of House members who will vote yes and from then on, hopefully, find it difficult to run for any higher office.

James P. McGovern (MA)
Special Order
Thursday, June 4, 2015


Mr. Speaker, today, along with my colleagues Walter Jones (R-NC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), I introduced H. Con. Res. 55 in order to force this House and this Congress to debate on whether U.S. troops should withdraw from Iraq and Syria.  We introduced this resolution under the provisions of section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution.

As all of my House colleagues know, last year, the President authorized airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on August 7th.  For over 10 months, the United States has been engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Syria without debating an authorization for this war.  On February 11th this year, nearly 4 months ago, the President sent to Congress the text for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force – or an AUMF – on combating the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, yet Congress has failed to act on that AUMF, or bring an alternative to the House floor, even though we continue to authorize and appropriate the money required for sustained military operations in those countries.

Frankly speaking, M. Speaker, this is unacceptable.  This House appears to have no problem sending our uniformed men and women into harm’s way; it appears to have no problem spending billions of dollars for the arms, equipment and airpower to carry out these wars; but it just can’t bring itself to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these wars.

Our servicemen and servicewomen are brave and dedicated.  Congress, however, is the poster child for cowardice.  The Leadership of this House whines and complains from the sidelines, and all the while it shirks its Constitutional duties to bring an AUMF to the floor of this House, debate it and vote on it.

Our resolution, which will come before this House for consideration in 15 calendar days, requires the President to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Syria within 30 days or no later than the end of this year, December 31, 2015.   If this House approves this resolution, Congress would still have 6 months in which to do the right thing and bring an AUMF before the House and Senate for debate and action.  Either Congress needs to live up to its responsibilities and authorize this war, or by its continuing neglect and indifference, our troops should be withdrawn and come home.  It’s that simple.

I am deeply troubled by our policy in Iraq and Syria.  I do not believe it is a clearly defined mission – with a beginning, a middle and an end – but rather, just more of the same.  I am not convinced that by enlarging our military footprint, we will end the violence in the region; defeat the Islamic State; or address the underlying causes of the unrest.  It’s a complicated situation that requires a complicated and more imaginative response.

I’m also concerned by recent statements by the Administration about how long we will be engaged in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere fighting the Islamic State.  Just yesterday, on June 3rd, General John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL, said that this fight may take “a generation or more.”  He was speaking in Doha, Qatar at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum.

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to invest a generation or more of our blood and our treasure in this war, then shouldn’t Congress at least debate whether or not to authorize it?

According to the National Priorities Project, based in Northampton, Massachusetts, in my congressional district, every single hour the taxpayers of the United States are paying $3.42 million for military actions against the Islamic State.  $3.42 million every hour, M. Speaker.

This is on top of the hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent on the first war in Iraq.  And nearly every single penny of this war chest was borrowed money, put on the national credit card – provided as so-called emergency funds that don’t have to be accounted for or subject to budget caps like all other funds.

Why is it, M. Speaker, that we always seem to have plenty of money or the will to borrow all the money it takes to carry out wars?  But somehow, we never have any money to invest in our schools, our highways and water systems, or our children, families and communities?   Every day this Congress is forced to make tough, serious, painful decisions to deprive our domestic economy and priorities of the resources they need to succeed.  But somehow, there’s always money for more wars.

Well, if we’re going to continue to spend billions on war; and if we’re going to continue to tell our Armed Forces that we expect them to fight and die in these wars; then it seems to me the least we can do is stand up and vote to authorize these wars, or we should end them.  We owe that to the American people; we owe that to our troops and their families; and we owe that to the oath of office each of us took to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I want to be clear, M. Speaker.  I can no longer criticize the President, the Pentagon or the State Department when it comes to taking responsibility for this war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  I may not agree with the policy, but they have done their duty.  At every step of the way, beginning on June 16, 2014, the President has informed Congress of his actions to send U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria and to carry out military operations against the Islamic State.  And on February 11th of this year, he sent Congress the draft text of an AUMF.

No, M. Speaker, while I disagree with the policy, the Administration has done its job. It has kept the Congress informed, and as military operations continued to escalate, they sent a request for an AUMF to the Congress for action.

It is this Congress – this House – that has failed, and failed miserably, to carry out its duties.  Always complaining from the sidelines, the Leadership of this House failed to act last year to authorize this war, even as it escalated and expanded nearly every month.  The Speaker said it wasn’t the responsibility of the 113th Congress to act, even though the war started during its tenure.  No! No!  Somehow it was the responsibility of the next Congress, the 114th Congress.

Well, the 114th Congress convened on January 6th and it still hasn’t done a single, solitary thing to authorize the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  The Speaker asserted that Congress couldn’t act on the war until the President sent an AUMF to Congress.  Well, M. Speaker, the President did just that on February 11th – and still the Leadership of this House has done nothing to authorize the use of military force in Iraq and Syria. And now, the Speaker is saying he wants the President to send Congress another version of the AUMF because he doesn’t like the first one.  Are you kidding me?

Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Speaker, it doesn’t work that way.  If the Leadership of this House doesn’t like the original text of the President’s AUMF, then it is the job of Congress to draft an alternative, report that revised AUMF out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, bring it the floor of the House, and let the Members of this House debate and vote on it.  That’s how it works.  If you think the President’s AUMF is too weak, then make it stronger.  If you think it’s too expansive, then set limits on it.  And if you’re opposed to these wars, then vote to bring our troops home.  In a nutshell, do your job.  It doesn’t matter if it’s hard work.  That’s what we are here to do.  That’s what we are charged under the Constitution to do.  And that’s why Members of Congress get a paycheck from the American people every week – to make the hard decisions, not run away from them.  All I ask, M. Speaker, is for Congress to do its job.  That’s the duty of this House and of the Majority in charge of this House – to simply do its job; to govern, M. Speaker.   But instead, all we witness is dithering, and twiddling, and complaining, and whining, and blaming others, and the complete and total shirking of responsibility, over and over and over again.  Enough!

So, with great reluctance and frustration, Representatives Jones, Lee and I have introduced H. Con. Res. 55.  Because if this House doesn’t have the stomach to carry out its Constitutional duty to debate and authorize this latest war, then we should bring our troops home.  If the cowardly Congress can go home each night to their families and loved ones, then our brave troops should receive the same privilege.

Doing nothing is easy.  And I’m sad to say, war has become easy; too easy.  But the costs, in terms of blood and treasure, are very high.

I urge all my colleagues to support this resolution and demand that the Leadership of this House bring to the floor of this House an AUMF for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria before Congress adjourns on June 26th for the 4th of July recess.

Congress needs to debate an AUMF, M. Speaker.  It just needs to do its job.


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