Sen. Markey: `We need to have' debate on US war powers

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PITTSFIELD With tensions between the U.S. and Iran continuing to simmer, Sen. Edward Markey said he's been lobbying his colleagues in the Senate to repeal a resolution that allows the president to declare war without seeking Congressional approval.

The Massachusetts Democrat said he was referring to the measure that Congress approved in 2002 that granted then-President George W. Bush the legal authority to wage war against Saddam Hussein and the government of Iraq. On Friday, White House National Security Officer Robert O'Brien cited that measure as one of the reasons to justify President Donald Trump ordering the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.

"I've been trying with some of my colleagues to repeal the AUMF [authorization of military force] from 2001 and 2002," Markey said Monday during a meeting with The Eagle's editorial board. "Presidents of both parties have fought the appeal of those authorizations."

The Democratic-controlled House approved a measure Thursday that requires Trump to seek approval from Congress before embarking on any new military action against Iran. The Senate is expected to debate the matter this week. Senators have been discussing whether to approve a similar resolution to limit the president's war power, or a different proposal sponsored by two senators that is more legally binding than the House resolution.

"We don't want the president to cross a tripwire and start another endless war in the Middle East," Markey said.

He referred to the debate in the Senate as an "absolute necessity" because some Republican senators are already suggesting that the White House attack Iran's oil and nuclear facilities and related infrastructure.

"We need to have this debate because [the president] does have people inside the Republican Party who believe that this is the wisest course and we just can't allow that to happen," Markey said. "If that happens without a Congressional authorization, we would have a conflict that has an infinity sign next to it.

"I'm very apprehensive about the ideological way in which the president's advisers get him to act impetuously then lie about the rationale."

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Under the war powers resolution, the president is required to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids those forces from remaining more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without a congressional authorization of military force or a declaration of war by the United States.

The White House did send Congress a formal notification under the War Powers Act of the drone strike that killed Soleimani within 48 hours after the attack took place, which is required by law. But House speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the notification "raises more questions than answers" including "serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran," according to The New York Times.

Several legislators took issue with information that the White House provided as justification for the strike against Soleimani during a classified briefing last week.

"I awaited the information that would make clear what was the imminent threats that Donald Trump ordered a response to, and we never heard that imminent threat," Markey said.

Markey said he was among dozens of senators who wanted to ask questions during the briefing — "they only answered, I think, 12 senator's questions," he said. "After 75 minutes they all just stood up and walked out of the room to the significant disgruntlement of the remaining senators of both parties.

"That's what you saw Sen. Lee responding to," said Markey, referring to comments last week by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah criticizing the information given at the briefing. "My displeasure was no less than Sen. Lee's because it was a disgrace."

Closer to home, Markey said he is still working on returning television stations from Springfield and Boston to cable television lineups in Berkshire County. In May, Markey filed a bill that was designed to push Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum Cable, to bring those stations.

Spectrum 1 is a new channel that can bring state news to the Berkshires, but Markey said those he has spoken to in the western part of the state have found that new channel to be "unacceptable" and would rather see Channel 22 in Springfield be placed on local cable systems again. Markey said he is working with Charter to have local news, weather and sports broadcast on Channel 22 be available in this area again.


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