In a House Resolution introduced last week, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) put forward use of the military by the executive branch without explicit authorization from Congress as an impeachable offense: one which some conservatives believe President Barack Obama has already committed.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jones, was once a Democrat who switched parties before seeking congressional office in the 90s. He endorsed former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for president in 2008, and has been one of the Republican Party’s loudest critics of the presidency’s warmaking powers.
“When you talk about war, political parties don’t matter,” he told The New York Times last year.
While not directly calling for impeachment, the bill would declare “that it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a president without prior and clear authorization of an act of Congress violates Congress’s exclusive power to declare war… and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.”
In other words, the bill would, in effect, serve as a trigger mechanism for impeachment proceedings.
Despite the Republican majority in the House, it is not clear if it has a chance at passing. It would have no chance of clearing the Senate, which has remained in bitter partisan gridlock since the 2010 elections.
Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress handed President George W. Bush blanket authority to make war, and the battlefield has since been classified as anywhere in the world, even on U.S. soil. Both the Afghan and Iraq wars were launched under this authority, and President Obama continues to claim the same executive power to carry on theaters of conflict in other regions.
Similarly, Congress committed the U.S. to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Following the 9/11 attacks, troops were deployed under NATO authority following a United Nations resolution which declared the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to be in breach of the U.N.’s terms. Congress did not specifically authorize those invasions, but Republicans were adamantly supportive of the president.
It is based upon that authority that U.S. Defense Secretary recently said before the Senate Armed Services Committee the U.S. could attack Syria — but only if the U.N. or NATO decides it appropriate. A similar legal channel was used by President Obama to commit the U.S. military to a supporting role in Libya’s recent civil war, drawing calls for impeachment then, too.