On the Assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Congressional Authority

Last night, President Trump ordered the assassination of a top Iranian general who has been responsible for many American and civilian deaths. Considering this action on its own, many military experts find it easily justified. Placed in a broader context, there are clear conflicts of interest. Trump himself warned in 2011 that Obama would attack Iran to boost his chances at re-election. Now, Trump is doing exactly that, and it is well-known in Washington that he has been scrambling to get any sort of legislation passed, such as tax credits for low-income Americans, that could help him be re-elected.

The U.S. Constitution is clear that “Congress shall have power . . . To declare war” and also “to raise and support armies.” Yet, the Speaker of the House was not even informed before the operation was executed, and only Lindsey Graham seems to have known, with the issue being discussed on one of Trump’s many taxpayer-funded vacations to Mar-a-Lago that cost $3.4 million each (exceeding a president’s salary for an entire 8-year tenure). Experts are warning that this is a monumental event that could kick off another decades-long war, such as our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in Game of Thrones, Nancy Pelosi would have at least received a raven (a message attached to a homing bird similar to a carrier pigeon), possibly even before the operation was executed.

I am friends or acquaintances with several Iranians at the University of Central Florida, who have come to the United States for the opportunities and possibilities available here. The students I know have come to earn their Master’s or doctoral degrees in the university’s excellent College of Community Innovation & Education or College of Engineering & Computer Science, and another is a statistician at the university who advised me as a member of my dissertation committee. The leaders of Iran are out-of-touch with the people and have taken positions that cripple the country’s economy. Compounded by American sanctions, this is resulting in tremendous hardships. Many Iranians want to come to the United States to start a new life in the land of opportunity, while many Americans cannot even place Iran on a map and harbor stereotypes about foreigners that are caustic and out-of-touch with reality.

If elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, one of my goals will be to restore Congressional authority. This includes the power to declare war (which has not been formally invoked since World War II), but also many domestic legislative issues. Washington veterans lament that under Mitch McConnell’s leadership, the U.S. Senate has become zombified, empowered only to confirm appointments of a never-ending stream of Trump loyalists to the federal judiciary. Recently, we have seen judges and the government attempt to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, which will cause untold suffering for millions of Americans. Yet, no one contests that when the courts overturn a policy or law on a statutory basis, that the U.S. Congress is empowered to amend the law to remedy its purported deficiencies and bring it back into force. Obviously, Congress has been dysfunctional for a long time and lately this has gotten even worse, but this does not mean we cannot turn the trend around. As a Congressman, I will support a Congressional Review Act for the Supreme Court that will empower a unified or bipartisan-cooperating government to swiftly act when key legislation falters in court. Although the stacking of the judiciary will be with us for a long time, there is a chance that 2021 will see a Democratic president and majorities in both houses of Congress, as it was (and was squandered) for the Republicans in 2017.

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