Last Wednesday night President Joe Biden approved an airstrike that struck an Iranian-backed facility in Syria, amid bipartisan criticism on how to act. The move came weeks after Iran launched a missile at US targets in Iraq, killing a US contractor and wounding another service member. Following the initial Iranian attack, a first test of the Biden administration in the Middle East, some Senators from the Republican side saw blood in the water and pressed the President to take action. From Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), many Republicans voiced support for retaliating against the Iranian government. It wasn’t what happened during the retaliatory strike that frustrated Biden’s counterparts in Congress however, it was before the counterstrike. Only the congressional leadership, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were notified before US action took place.
War powers have been a topic of much controversy and bipartisan debate on what the President can and can’t do without Congressional approval. Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress has the power “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”. Since President Biden didn’t consult with the full Congress, many like Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) believe this attack needs legal justification- at a minimum. This also upset progressive Democrats such as Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), who have always been vocal opponents of US involvement in the Middle East. Following a confirmation defeat and minimum wage knock by the Senate Parliamentarian, it has not been the start to the Biden presidency many were hoping for.