September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Congressional Record House HJRES 64- Authorizing Use of United States Armed Forces; September 14, 2001


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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DEFAZIO) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DEFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, the senseless human tragedy caused by the craven terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, weigh heavily on our minds and will do so for many days, months, and years to come.

Many have said our Nation will never be the same. I agree. Our Nation is stronger, more united, and prouder than possibly at any time in our history. The outpouring of grief and offers of assistance, both here and abroad, have been comforting. The terrorists may have collapsed our buildings; but in response, we are building a stronger America.

Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and with those whose loved ones are still missing. Our thoughts are with those who have undertaken the difficult, dangerous, and heroic task of rescuing and treating the wounded and recovering the bodies of those who were killed.

As the gravity of the situation sinks in, our thoughts have also turned to those responsible for these atrocities. Our Nation must take action against those responsible, including those who provide safe havens and financial support for terrorists. U.S. actions to exact justice must be deliberate, decisive, and effective.

However, the United States must be careful not to indiscriminately attack civilian populations in other nations, which will only further the cause of the terrorists and perpetuate a cycle of violence.

Decisions on war and peace are the most profound decisions Members of Congress can ever be required to make. This is the second time in my career I have been confronted by such a decision, something I hoped would never come.

In our desire to show support for the President, we must be careful not to cede our constitutional duties now or set a precedent for doing so in the future.

Article I section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the authority ``to declare war.'' This right was recognized by the earliest leaders of our Nation. In 1793, President Washington, when considering how to protect inhabitants of the American frontier, instructed his administration that ``no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after Congress have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.''

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent a small squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean to protect against possible attacks by the Barbary pirates. He told Congress that he was ``unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.'' It further noted that it was up to Congress to authorize ``measures of offense also.''

I believe maintaining this solemn congressional prerogative to send our young men and women into battle is critical to protecting the delicate balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. This balance of power was carefully crafted by our founders in Philadelphia more than 2 centuries ago and has allowed the United States to remain one of the most stable and enduring democracies in the world.

There was a time when such a power was threatened. Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution of 1973 in response to the military activities of successive Presidents while waging war in

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Korea and Vietnam. The War Powers Resolution reaffirmed the prerogative of the legislative branch under the Constitution to commit our Armed Forces to hostilities and declare war.

I had strong reservations about earlier drafts of the proposed resolution that authorized the use of force in an unprecedented, open-ended manner, far beyond that necessary to respond to the terrorist acts on our people, even far beyond that ceded to FDR in World War II. This is not a partisan issue for me. I would have opposed similar resolution language under a President of my own party.

This is an institutional concern for me. The earlier drafts ceded too much authority to the executive branch. In fact, one of the earlier drafts had provisions nearly identical to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had led to the unaccountable use of U.S. military forces in Vietnam.

But it is important to recognize that President Bush already has the authority to respond to the attacks.

The War Powers Resolution in section 2(c) recognizes the constitutional power of the President as Commander in Chief to introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostile situations under certain circumstances.

Section 2(c) says the President can introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostile situations pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory obligations or, in this case, a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States territories, possessions or its Armed Forces. Two of those conditions have been met.

The President has the authority he needs to respond to the current crisis without setting the precedent of ceding additional war power authority.

Given his existing authority to respond in the event of an attack upon the United States or Armed Forces, we must be careful in granting further or ceding further constitutional powers.

The use of force resolution before us today is not exactly as I would have written it. However, for the most part, it restates the authority I already believe was granted to the President under section 2(c)(3) of the War Powers Resolution.

The reference in the resolution to section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution I believe creates a little confusion, but it is my reading of the resolution that nothing in this act supersedes congressional authority under the War Powers Resolution and the President will still be bound by the reporting and consultation requirements. Congress will reserve the right to review those actions, as it should be under the Constitution.

Make no mistake, Congress will stand united behind our young men and women who may well be put soon in harm's way, and the President of the United States as Commander in Chief. We pray that he uses the awesome power of the United States with great deliberateness and with wisdom.


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