Interviewed Tuesday at C-SPAN, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) challenged the continuing refusal of US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to allow the House to debate and vote on the Afghanistan War, the costs of which Jones presents as so far including the spending of over 800 billion dollars, the death of over 2,000 Americans, and the wounding of over 20,000 more.
Jones was a guest on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program to discuss HR 1666, legislation he introduced in the House of Representatives last week and says in the interview he hopes can lead to a debate on the House floor regarding “whether we should stay in Afghanistan or not stay in Afghanistan.” Jones was joined on the show by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), a cosponsor of the legislation.
Early in the interview, Jones points to Ryan for blame for the continuation of the Afghanistan War with neither a debate nor a vote in the House. Says Jones:
The reason we are not debating this is really not at the White House; it’s Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan can tell the committees of jurisdiction, ‘We want to have a debate on Afghanistan.’ You can use what [Rep. Garamendi] and I put in as a vehicle to have that debate — or something totally different. We just don’t debate this black hole, this waste of money and life in Afghanistan.
Similarly, Ryan and his speaker predecessor John Boehner (R-OH) have for years blocked House debate on authorizing or ending the ISIS War that is being pursued unilaterally by the executive branch.
Jones states bluntly in the C-SPAN interview that his Republican Party is “the war party simply because our leadership in the House will not let us debate and meet our constitutional responsibility” in regard to US wars.
Instead of Congress just funding without restraint whatever fighting to which successive presidents commit the US military, the US Constitution says that the power to declare war resides in Congress. Jones argues in the interview that Congress must rediscover and assert its constitutional control over whether wars are or are not fought. Jones says:
The president right now is operating under the same [authorization for use of military force (AUMF)] that [President George W. Bush] operated under and [President Barack Obama]. Congress is letting the president determine what is going to be done with our military when we have a constitutional duty to declare whether we want to send our men and women to die for this country or not.
Returning later in the interview to the topic of legislative power over the use of the US military overseas, Jones states:
We are frustrated that decisions are being made outside of Congress. And, yet, I blame Congress, quite frankly, for those decisions that are being made outside of Congress — primarily in the White House. We need to show that we are an equal branch of government. And [James] Madison said it better, and I’m paraphrasing very badly: ‘It is the legislative branch that will debate and vote for war, not the executive branch.’ We have allowed the executive branch to take over our foreign policy and determine how to use our troops; it’s wrong.
In the interview, Garamendi backs up Jones’ contention that Congress must exercise its constitutional responsibility regarding the Afghanistan war, stating:
It is unique to us — the 535 members of the Congress and the Senate; it is our obligation to deal with war. Nobody else has that responsibility.
A reason for the legislative branch’s failure to fulfill its responsibility, Garamendi suggests, is fear:
I think people are frightened. Members are frightened about having to vote on whether we are going to war or not. They would just assume somebody else make the decision, and we turned that over to the president.
Watch the complete interview here:
Jones is a member of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity Advisory Board.
Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.