There are three separate issues here which are easy to get confused.
First, there is the strategic question of whether the death on Soleimani was good for the American people. On this Sen. Lee has been perfectly consistent. “The death of Qasem Soleimani is a big victory for the safety of the American people,” Sen. Lee said within hours of the strike. It appears you agree with Sen. Lee on this issue.
Second, there is the question of whether the action had proper congressional authorization. Sen. Lee raised questions about the legality of the strike from the beginning while the administration has given changing justifications overtime. Sen. Lee believes those that briefed Congress last Wednesday failed to make a compelling case that the attack was justified by the president’s inherent Article II powers. However, Sen. Lee has always been open to the argument that the 2002 AUMF and continued appropriations for troops in Iraq does justify the attack since it happened in Iraq. Unfortunately, this case was not featured at the Wednesday briefing.
Finally, there is the question of whether any president has an obligation to seek authorization from Congress before they conduct a prolonged campaign against Iran. This is not a question about the Soleimani strike, this is a question about possible future action against Iran proper. The briefers not only said they did not need any such authorization, but they went even further, claiming any debate about military action against Iran would weaken our country. This is what inspired Sen. Lee’s defense of the Constitution.
To be clear, the issue is not whether or not the administration should have briefed Congress about the Soleimani strike beforehand. Congressional notification in no way addresses the congressional authorization problem. The “Gang of Eight” appears nowhere in the Constitution.
What Sen. Lee does believe is important is the restoration of Congress’s war power. When we send our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines into harm’s way, we owe the American people the decent courtesy to follow the Constitution. We must debate and discuss these actions to make sure they can withstand the scrutiny of the only sovereigns in our republic — the American people.
Thank you for this opportunity to clear these issues up.
-Conn Carroll, Communications Director, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)