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SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


The bill clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Kentucky [Mr. PAUL] moves to commit the bill, S. 493, to the Committee on Foreign Relations with instructions to report back forthwith with an amendment numbered 276.

Mr. PAUL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:


At the appropriate place, insert the following:

It is the sense of the Senate, that ``The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation''.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kentucky.

Mr. PAUL. Madam President, we are engaged in a third war at a time when our country is struggling under an enormous debt, at a time when we are engaged in two wars. Historically, our country has fought war by asking for congressional authority. This was true in Iraq. This was true in Afghanistan. The President came to Congress, and there was a vote on use of force prior to him engaging in force.

Some say: Well, this is no big deal; the President should be able to fight war whenever he wants to fight war. I beg to differ, and our Founding Fathers begged to differ. Madison said that the Constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the executive is the branch most prone to war and most interested in it. Therefore, the Constitution has, with studied care, invested the power to declare war in the Congress.

I think this is an incredibly important debate. When we talk about sending our young men and women into harm's way, into another war, the fact that we would have a President send us to war without any debate--your people's representatives have had absolutely no debate, and we are now involved in a third war.

The language of my resolution is not unfamiliar to many. The language of this resolution is the President's words.

In 2007, Barack Obama said:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

This was very clear, what the President said. I agree with what Candidate Barack Obama said. We should not go to war without congressional authority. These are the checks and balances that give you a say, that give the people of America a say through their representatives. This allows us to say when we go to war through our Congress, not through one individual but through 535 individuals whom you elect.

I think the decision to go to war is such an important one that we should not leave it up to one person. Our Founding Fathers agreed with this.

In the 1970s, after Vietnam, we voted on something called the War Powers Act. We did give the President the right to go to war in certain circumstances. These circumstances were, one, if Congress had declared war; two, if Congress had authorized the use of military force, or three, if there was imminent danger to our country. I think all of us recognize that. If we were in imminent danger of attack, we would allow the President some latitude, but we would expect very quickly for him to come to Congress and ask for permission.

In this instance, even the Secretary of Defense has said that Libya is not in our national interest. There is no threat to our national security. Yet we are now involved in a third war. We have already spent $600 million in the first 3 days of this war. There has been no constitutional authority given to the President to be committing troops to this war.

This is such an important constitutional principle that, while I am new here in the Senate, I am appalled that the Senate has abdicated its responsibility, that the Senate has chosen not to act and to allow this power to gravitate to the President. I think that the precedent of allowing a President to continue to act or to initiate war without congressional review, without congressional votes, without the representatives of the people having any say, is a real problem.

There was an article this morning in the Washington Times by GEN Mark Kimmitt. In that, he says that there is a climate of cognitive dissonance surrounding the discussion as the military objectives seem detached from U.S. policy.

The lack of connectivity between the use of force and campaign objectives, the subordination of the military to a nondecisive purpose, turns decades of policy on the use of force on its head.

This is from General Kimmitt this morning:

Vital national interests are not threatened. ..... Nor have sanctions failed or diplomacy been exhausted. ..... We are putting the lives of our troops at risk in a nondecisive role for a mission that does not meet the threshold of a vital or national interest.

General Kimmitt goes on further:

For a military carrying the burden of three wars on its back for the foreseeable future, a policy of more frequent intervention and suboptimal use of force as an instrument of diplomacy is a mistake.

I come from a State--Kentucky--that has two military bases. I see our young men and women going to war, and I worry about their families and themselves engaged in two wars. Some of these young men and woman have been going to war for 10 years now. And the President now is going to engage us in a third war without any consultation, without any voting in Congress, and without any congressional authority.

I believe this is a very serious breach of our Constitution. It is something we should not let happen lightly. It is something that we should object strenuously to and that we should force a debate on in this body. Many debates historically have happened here, many important debates. And what is happening now is we are abdicating our duty and allowing this to be made unilaterally by one individual. I think it is a mistake, I think it is a travesty, and I think it should end.

There have been some questions about who these people are whom we will be supporting in this new war. I think there is no question that Qadhafi is a tyrant, an autocrat, and someone whom freedom-loving people would despise. However, do we know who the rebels are?

During the 1980s, we supported the Freedom Fighters in Afghanistan. Do you know who turned out to be the leader of the Freedom Fighters, or one of the leaders? Osama bin Laden--now our mortal enemy--was receiving money from the United States and support from the United States for over a decade. In fact, the State Department's stated goal in Afghanistan during the 1980s was ``radical jihad.'' We were in favor of radical jihad because we thought the Islamic radicals hated the Russians worse than us. They did until they got rid of the Russians, and now they hate us as much or more.

I think we have to be very careful in going to war. I told my constituents when I ran for office that the most important vote I would ever take would be on sending their men and women, the boys and girls, the young men and women in my State or anywhere else in the United States, to war. To me, it is amazing--amazing--that we would do this so lightly without any consideration by this august body, send our young men and women to war without any congressional approval.

There have been some reports in the media about possible ties of al-Qaida to the rebels. This morning in the Washington Post, a former leader of Libya's al-Qaida affiliate said he thinks freelance jihadists have joined the rebel forces. A NATO commander said that some of al-Qaida and Hezbollah forces are fighting Qadhafi forces. Former jihadist Noman Ben Otman estimates there are 1,000 jihadists in Libya. These are the rebels.

We have to ask ourselves, when Qadhafi is gone, who will take his place? A 2007 West Point study showed that 19 percent of foreign al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan hailed from Libya. Libya has been supplying the second leading amount of jihadists to the war in Afghanistan. Interestingly, where do these fighters go? Do the fighters come back to Libya to haunt us? When Qadhafi is gone, will we now have an al-Qaida-supported government in Libya?

But I think most important are not the practical aspects of going to war, it is that we didn't follow the Constitution in going to war, and we should have. The Constitution says very clearly that the power to declare war is the power that was given to Congress and not to the President. James Madison in the Federalist Papers was very explicit that this was a power given to Congress and not to the President.

The President's own words are incredibly important here. The hypocrisy is amazing. In 2007, the President said:

The President does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Yet here we have a President cavalierly taking us to war. He seems to have had a lot of time to talk to people. He talked to the Arab League. They had time to get together and vote on it. He talked to the U.N. They had time to get together and vote on it. But he had utter disregard and contempt for the most important body in the United States that represents the people--the U.S. Congress. Utter contempt. He has gone to NATO. He has gone to our allies. He has gone to the U.N. He has gone to the Arab League. But he has not had one single minute of debate in Congress.

To add insult to injury, he chose to go to war while in Brazil, while Congress was not even in session. This really should not be the way we operate as a constitutional republic.

I am saddened that no one here seems to stand up and say: Why in the world would we let a President take us to war without any debate? Why in the world, when we are involved in two wars, would we get involved with a third war without having a debate in Congress?

This, to me, is a remarkable and really tragic set of events. I hope that the Congress and the Senate in particular will see fit to pass this motion which sends the bill back to committee with specific instructions. The specific instructions are the President's words, and I will be more than interested to see whether his supporters here in the Senate will support the candidate Barack Obama or now the hypocritical version that has become our President.

I think this is an important question beyond any question we will address in this year. Our fiscal problems are really a tragic problem we face now, but this really pales in comparison, to usurp the power of war, to take that power upon himself unilaterally without any debate in Congress.

I urge the passage of this motion to commit to the committee.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.

Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, in response to the Senator from Kentucky, I would like to say that he is new to the Senate. I do not question his sincerity when it comes to the enforcement of our Constitution. I share his feelings about the responsibility of Congress under that Constitution to declare war. I have held previous Presidents of both political parties to that standard and believe that this President should be held to that standard as well. I may regret some of his characterizations of our President, but I will not go into that at this moment. I will say the following:

Let's make the record clear about how we got into this situation and why we got into the situation, which the President said the other night. This was not a matter of waiting until Congress came back from its vacation; it was a matter of innocent people being killed in Libya.

It was no mistake what Qadhafi was going to do. He said pointblank: I am going to Benghazi. I am going house to house and room to room and kill people, my own people.

It should not come as any surprise because he has a history of that, not only killing his own people but killing those innocent passengers on Pan Am 103. He is a ruthless, bloody dictator, so much so that the Arab League of Nations broke precedent and called for Libya to be suspended as long as Qadhafi was in charge. His own Arab League of Nations suspended him. They then turned to the United Nations and said: Please stop him from killing his own people.

Mr. PAUL. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. DURBIN. When I finish my statement, I will be happy to yield.

They then said: Go to the United Nations and create the authority, an international authority to stop him. This was done.

It was in the midst of all this that the President was leaving for South America and Congress was leaving for a 1-week scheduled recess. That is a fact. On the Friday, which is now about 10 days ago, before we left, the President had a conference call and invited all members of the leadership, Democratic and Republican, House and Senate, to listen to a briefing from the Situation Room about the exact military situation we faced and invited questions and comments from all Members of Congress who were part of that conversation. I was part of that conversation. I listened to it carefully. It became clear to me that the President had laid down certain conditions to U.S. involvement.

No. 1, the President said: No American ground troops.

No. 2, the President said: This is a war of short duration as far as the United States is concerned; in his words, ``days,'' not weeks, and he went on to say that the United States would use its unique capabilities to help those allies of the United States who wanted to stop Qadhafi's killing. He used the phrase ``unique capabilities'' several times in that conversation.

I wasn't sure what he meant. I learned later in press reports. The United States used technology on the initial air invasion for the no-fly zone that stopped the radar of the Libyans so our planes and the planes of our allies could travel across Libya and stop their planes and tanks without danger. So that was the commitment made by the President.

What does the law say? The law passed by Congress over the veto of President Nixon, the War Powers Act, requires the President to notify Congress when he initiates this form of military action. Did he do it? He did. As a matter of fact, the President submitted a notification to Congress within 48 hours of the initiation of these operations consistent with the War Powers Resolution. So to argue that the President is circumventing Congress is not factual. He did exactly what the law requires him to do.

If this President were planning a full-scale invasion such as we had in Kuwait under President George Herbert Walker Bush, with a long period of buildup--I insisted, and President Bush complied with, a request to come to Congress for authorization. He did it. Credit should be given to President Bush. But it was a different circumstance.

What the Senator from Kentucky is suggesting is that President Obama should have waited until he could summon Congress back into session--how many days would that be--waited until Congress deliberated and voted before he took emergency action to protect our allies' planes and our planes, to stop Qadhafi from killing people. I am all in favor of constitutional powers, but I believe there are moments when a President has to have the authority to exercise that kind of military decision when he believes it is in the best interest of the United States.

I don't think it is hypocritical. I am sorry that word was used. I think what the President has said is that he is trying to redefine the role of the United States in the world, standing up for our values, fighting for peace, trying to stop the carnage in Libya, without committing tens of thousands of American soldiers for years at a time. I happen to think that is a worthy foreign policy goal. I also believe the ball is now in the court of Congress. It now is up to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee to decide if they want to have hearings on this Libyan action, whether or not we take action in response to the President's filing this notice under the War Powers Resolution. But to argue that the President has just ignored the Constitution or ignored the law ignores the facts. The President filed the notification required by law under the War Powers Act. Now the ball is in our court. Are we going to move forward? Will we have hearings? Will we take action? It is up to Congress now. I sincerely believe there should be hearings. I hope this matter is over before we even have the requirement or necessity to have such hearings. But at this moment in time, as I see it, the President has complied with the law.

I am happy to yield to the Senator from Kentucky for a question.

Mr. PAUL. On December 7, 1941, we were attacked and the President declared war. We had a session within 24 hours. On 9/11, we were attacked by people coming from Afghanistan. We met within 3 days and had a use of force authorization. I think there is a problem with sort of saying it is OK to declare that the President can go to war after he has already done it.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, with all the complaints from many people on the different wars in which we are involved, President Bush did come to ask for the authorization of force. We have had 2 to 3 weeks of this issue. They had time to go to the U.N. They had time to go to the Arab League. They had time to go to everyone. I think the Senator from Illinois should be as insulted as I am that they never came to Congress.

The War Powers Act has specific criteria that allows the President to use force: a declared war, when he has use of authorization, or when we are in imminent danger. Which one of those meets the War Powers Act with regard to Libya?

Mr. DURBIN. The Senator is correct in his statement that not only President George Herbert Walker Bush but also President George W. Bush came to Congress and broke precedent. That had not happened in Korea or Vietnam. We went back to what I considered to be the constitutional standard. Congress deliberated on those wars and voted.

I will tell the Senator from Kentucky, since he is my friend and is new here, it is one of the most compelling votes he will ever cast. I hope he never faces it. But if he does, it is one of the votes that will keep him up at night trying to think what is best for America and what is best for the young men and women who may lose their lives in the process.

In fairness to both Presidents Bush, they did come to Congress. The lead-up to the invasion of Iraq went on for weeks if not months. The same thing was true for Afghanistan. Remember, in the situation with Afghanistan, after 9/11, we were here in this building when it happened. We knew what 9/11 was about, and we responded accordingly.

The Senator from Kentucky has the right to express his point of view and debate it on the Senate floor and the right to pursue the War Powers Act which gives Congress the authority for hearings and a decision. What I disagree with the Senator from Kentucky about is the characterization that the President did not follow the law. He did notify Congress. The circumstances moved so quickly with human life hanging in the balance, the President made that decision and now stands with the American people making a judgment as to whether it was the proper decision to make.

At this point I would like to yield the floor to the Senator from Kansas for the purpose of debate only, with the understanding that when he has completed his debate, I will suggest the absence of a quorum.

Mr. PAUL. Will the Senator yield for a further question?

Mr. DURBIN. Fine.

Mr. PAUL. I know the word ``hypocritical'' is a strong word. I don't use it lightly. But the words we are using in this resolution that we will get a chance to vote on are the words from the President. The President said: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the Nation.

How does the Senator from Illinois square that with his actions?

Mr. DURBIN. That was the question raised by the President in his address to the American people the night before last, as to whether it is in the best interest of the United States to step forward with our unique capability--in this case, our air power, as well as our technology--to protect innocent human life. There are some who will argue that he should not have done it, and we should have just waited to see if Qadhafi would keep his word to kill all these innocent people. I think the President made the right, humane decision.

Had we made a fraction of that decision in Rwanda, it might have spared tens of thousands of people from dying. The same thing might have happened in Darfur. I think the Presidents who were in power at that time both personally regret the fact that we didn't do anything as those genocides unfolded. President Obama did not want that to occur on his watch and thought the United States, in a limited military commitment, could help spare innocent people in Libya from this carnage.

We can debate as to whether that is appropriate, and I am sure we will. I know the Senator from Kentucky has his own beliefs on the subject.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Kansas, Mr. Moran, be recognized to speak in debate only and that following his remarks, I suggest the absence of a quorum and the clerk will call the roll.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


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