To say that conservative talk radio host Mark Levin isn’t happy with Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee would be an understatement of epic proportions. The reason? Their decision to stand in front of leftwing-media cameras to blast the Trump administration after they were briefed on the decision to take out Iranian Terror General Qasem Soleimani. “Code Pink Republicans,” as Levin called them, misinterpret the United States Constitution by pretending it’s a libertarian or even populist document, which it is not.
“The briefing lasted only 75 minutes, whereupon our briefers left,” Lee said afterward. “This, however, is not the biggest problem I have with the briefing, which I would add was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.”
“I find it insulting and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States, he went on to say. “It’s un-American. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s wrong. … They are appearing before a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might take. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public. I find that to be absolutely insane.”
Rand Paul added that the briefing was “less than satisfying” and blasted the administration for using the 2002 war authorization (against Iraq) as the basis for the airstrike against Soleimani. “I see no way in the world you could logically argue that an authorization to have war with Saddam Hussein has anything to with having war with people currently in Iraq,” Paul said, adding that this justification is actually “absurd” and “an insult.”
Mark Levin was extremely displeased by those remarks from the two Republican senators. “The War Powers Act of 1973 is unconstitutional,” Levin said at the very start of the program. Virtually every president who took office after that date believed that to be the case. “So to watch Mike Lee and Rand Paul and Matt Gaetz and others act as if it’s constitutional is quite appalling to me.”
He then went on to explain that Democrats didn’t seem to care one bit about that act (or resolution) when President Obama was in office. Whatever he did in Libya was perfectly fine with them.
However, considering that Democrats have personified the word “hypocrisy” for years now, this can come as little surprise. More surprising and, to Levin at least, extremely problematic, is that those Democrats have found some Republican libertarian-leaning allies. “As I explained to you, the constitution is not a libertarian document,” Levin said. “It is what it is.”
He then explained that the War Powers Resolution gives Congress powers that are actually reserved for the executive branch. That’s why Nixon vetoed the bill back in the day, even though the two chambers of Congress sadly had a far-left majority back then, allowing them to override the veto. And so America is now stuck with a law that limits the president’s authority to protect the nation, although the U.S. Constitution clearly grants the executive the power to a) determine foreign policy and b) run national security on a day-to-day basis. Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war, yes, but that’s something completely different from the powers suddenly granted to Congress by the War Powers Resolution.
“It’s the president of the United States […] who is responsible for initiating” military force, Levin went on to say. If Congress disagrees with the president’s decision, it can oppose him by cutting spending on certain military-related issues. The Pentagon’s budget can be decreased on a line-by-line basis, and a war effort can even be defunded entirely (see Vietnam).
At the Constitutional Convention, the Framers purposefully rejected “make war” in the Constitution with regards to Congress’ authority and replaced it with “declare war.” This obviously makes sense because you can’t expect Congress to a) immediately respond to immediate threats and b) to micromanage a war.
However, Levin said, Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee don’t seem to care about these matters. “So you actually have people, mostly libertarians, misreading the Constitution and the context of the history that they cite, cherrypicking it. The fact of the matter is, you cannot rely on Congress to conduct wars. Congress has tools to stop them, to prevent them, but it cannot micromanage what a president is doing, short of using the power of the purse,” Levin said.
“I would ask these radical libertarians, who are Code Pink Republicans in many respects, does Congress have the power to tell a president to go to war? Does Congress have the power to tell a president which battle to engage in or not to engage in? Does it? I understand listening to Mike Lee the other day, he said: ‘Look, we asked the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the CIA Director, many others when is it your responsibility to tell Congress about your next move if you were to take out Grand Ayatollah Khamenei? And they wouldn’t give me an answer,’ he says. OK, let me turn the table, Mike. What are the limits on Congress’s ability to intervene in the role of the commander-in-chief? Must he always come to Congress? Well then, what’s the triggering mechanism? Where is the default line? If it’s a major battle? If it’s taking out the number in a government who is a terrorist? What is it Mike, what is it, Rand?” (emphasis added)
“They don’t have an answer to that either and they know they don’t,” Levin went on to say. “The Constitution does not confer on Congress the power that Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Matt Gaetz, and others — some of them are my friends — claim that it does. The War Powers Act is fundamentally unconstitutional. Congress does not have the authority to micromanage a president as commander-in-chief. The right to declare war does not give them that authority. They can use the power of the purse, as they do in any other area, to make a decision and influence the commander-in-chief’s role. but they do not have an affirmative power granted anywhere in the United States Constitution. None. Like it or not, that is the Constitution.”