The Senate on Tuesday essentially defeated an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul designed to imply that President Barack Obama contradicted himself when he ordered military operations in Libya without Congress’ consent.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) avoided a direct vote on the measure by requesting a motion to table the Kentucky Republican’s procedural maneuver. Reid’s motion was overwhelmingly approved, 90-10, with only nine Republicans joining Paul in support of proceeding to an up-or-down vote on his amendment.
Paul’s tightly worded amendment was written using an Obama quote from 2007, when the Illinois Democrat was still a Senator campaigning for the White House. “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,” Obama said then. The Kentucky Republican’s amendment would have adopted the statement as a sense of the Senate, and he was seeking Tuesday to have it inserted into a small-business research bill.
Paul said in an interview following the vote that he was surprised that he did not receive more support from his fellow Republicans. The freshman also had some choice words for Obama.
“I was excited that we had the debate,” Paul said. “It’s very important. We should have had the debate before we went to war. I think if the president were a true leader, he would have called us back that week we were out of session. On Monday we would have had a vote.”
“The point I made on the floor was, in World War II we were attacked on Dec. 7 and the entire Congress voted the next morning to declare war,” Paul continued. “There’s no reason in the modern age that we shouldn’t have come back and voted — there’s no excuse at all. They said, well, we wouldn’t have time, and this and that. He went to the U.N., the Arab League, NATO — he just showed disdain [for Congress]. And I guess what saddens me is that only 10 people in the Senate” supported Paul’s effort.
Those voting with Paul were GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Jim DeMint (S.C.), John Ensign (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). Paul said more Republicans have expressed support to him privately but for various reasons declined to vote with him.
“Our chance was right there to reassert [Congressional] power — and it was actually on a nonbinding vote — just on whether you believe that the president shouldn’t go to war unilaterally,” Paul said. “I think most on the [Democratic] side were embarrassed by the fact that it was the president’s words, and that’s why they voted the way they did. On our side there are many who believe that there are no limits to the presidency, and I think that’s wrong.”