Earlier today, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) told you what Barack Obama thought back in 2007 about presidents taking military action without the blessing of Congress -- mainly, that he was apposed to it. Now, CNS News reminds us what Vice President Joe Biden once had to say about the matter: he was opposed to it, too.
In a speech on the Senate floor on July 30, 1998, Biden gave a Constitutional history lesson of sorts when he decried the practice. "Joe Biden determined that the Founding Fathers had vested the power to authorize even the limited use of military force in the Congress not the president -- unless it was necessary for the president to act swiftly to repel an attack on the United States or to rescue U.S. citizens," is how CNSNews.com sums up his argument.
The news site goes on to detail the speech:
“The rationale for vesting the power to launch war in Congress was simple,” Biden said in a Senate speech delivered on July 30, 1998. “The Framers' views were dominated by their experience with the British King, who had unfettered power to start wars. Such powers the Framers were determined to deny the President.” [...]
In his speech to the Senate in 1998, Biden accurately summarized the notes of the Constitutional Convention.
“The original draft of the Constitution would have given to Congress the power to ‘make war.’ At the Constitutional Convention, a motion was made to change this to ‘declare war.’ The reason for the change is instructive,” said Biden.
“At the Convention, James Madison and Elbridge Gerry argued for the amendment solely in order to permit the President the power ‘to repel sudden attacks,’” said Biden. “Just one delegate, Pierce Butler of South Carolina, suggested that the President should be given the power to initiate war.”
Citing Federalist No. 69, Biden noted that Alexander Hamilton, who among the Framers was perhaps the greatest champion of a strong executive, argued that the Constitution gave the president the authority to direct the military in action only after that action was authorized by Congress.
“Even Alexander Hamilton, a staunch advocate of Presidential power, emphasized that the President's power as Commander in Chief would be ‘much inferior’ to the British King, amounting to ‘nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces,’ while that of the British King ‘extends to declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies--all which, by [the U.S.] Constitution, would appertain to the legislature,’” said Biden.
“Given this,” Biden concluded, “the only logical conclusion is that the framers intended to grant to Congress the power to initiate all hostilities, even limited wars.”
The speech, CNS says, introduced legislation replacing the 1973 War Powers Resolution and restricting the president's ability to commit U.S. troops indefinitely without the approval of Congress. Biden's bill would have only allowed presidential-sanctioned military action in certain circumstances, such as:
(1) To repel attack on U.S. territory or U.S. forces; (2) To deal with urgent situations threatening supreme U.S. interests; (3) To extricate imperiled U.S. citizens; (4) To forestall or retaliate against specific acts of terrorism; (5) To defend against substantial threats to international sea lanes or airspace.
Interestingly, Biden's exceptions did not include a UN resolution, such as the one that Obama based Libyan intervention on. In fact, he even bashed President Truman for such justification in Korea, calling that action "monarchist."
But unlike Obama who seems to have flip-flopped, Reports are that Biden has stayed somewhat true to the convictions outlined in his 1998 speech. As was noted in a piece posted on the blog this weekend, Biden was one of the few dissenters who did not support a no-fly zone in Libya. Still, apparently the president assuaged those concerns with his plan and Biden got on board.
Again, he stayed somewhat true.
Get more details of Biden's 1998 speech from CNS News.