Updated 6:45 p.m.
Two freshman Republicans senators on Friday announced that they will oppose any further votes on a Senate small business bill next week until an amendment proposed by one of them on the U.S. involvement in Libya is brought up for a vote.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) made the announcement late Friday in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in which they state that they will object to any votes until Paul’s Libya resolution is scheduled for a vote.
“While we realize there are other matters the Senate had planned to work on, it is our belief that there is very little we are doing that rises to the level of a constitutional question regarding war,” wrote Paul and Lee, who are also two of the three founding members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.
“Voting for whether or not to send our sons and daughters to war is the most important and most difficult decision we should ever make as a nation and as senators. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and we believe the Senate is abdicating its responsibility at this very moment,” they added.
Reid spokesman Jon Summers said that “the administration has done a good job of consulting with Congress and conveying as much information to us as is possible. Further, the Senate has had hearings and briefings, which Senators Paul and Lee have been invited to attend, throughout the week to carefully examine the effectiveness of our operations, and will continue to do so as operations continue.”
A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Earlier this week, Paul, who had previously announced his opposition to U.S. military involvement in Libya, introduced an amendment to the small business bill that would express the “sense of the Senate” that the president cannot unilaterally act on matters of war.
The Paul resolution is comprised of one sentence – a 2007 statement made by then-Sen. Barack Obama – that “the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.’”
Paul’s amendment is one of several Libya resolutions proposed by members of the Senate as U.S. involvement in the conflict enters its third week. Administration officials briefed members of Congress on the U.S. intervention this week and testified on the conflict at multiple Senate and House hearings. Earlier this month, before the U.S. became involved in Libya, the Senate passed a resolution by unanimous voice vote calling for Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s resignation and the possible establishment of a no-fly zone.
The objections by Paul and Lee would not affect a vote on a repeal of the health-care law’s unpopular 1099 tax reporting provision, which is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
The full text of Paul and Lee’s letter is after the jump.
Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell:
As you know, Senator Paul recently made a motion to have the Senate vote on the following sense of the Senate:
“The President does not have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
The motion Senator Paul made has the vote as the pending business in the Senate, ready for a vote at any time. He did not ask for extended debate, and his motion would take up a maximum of 30 minutes of the Senate’s time.
Though brief, it would be an important 30 minutes for the Senate. It will be the only 30 minutes spent on discussing and voting on whether or not the President has the power under the Constitution to attack another country without congressional authorization.
We believe the answer is that he does not. We also believe Congress has an obligation to stand up and declare whether or not we intend to hold the President to his constitutional oath.
While we realize there are other matters the Senate had planned to work on, it is our belief that there is very little we are doing that rises to the level of a constitutional question regarding war. Voting for whether or not to send our sons and daughters to war is the most important and most difficult decision we should ever make as a nation and as senators. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and we believe the Senate is abdicating its responsibility at this very moment.
The bombing and military action against the Libyan government will be two weeks old by the time we return to session next week. That means congressional debate on this war is two weeks overdue.
We feel strongly enough about this matter that we are writing to inform you of our intentions. The Senate has already agreed to move a bill on Tuesday morning. In order to ensure our rights are protected, we will serve notice now that upon completion of H.R. 4, we will object to further votes on amendments to S. 493 until such time as the motion on presidential war authority is scheduled for a vote. We are happy to work with the leaders of both parties on the timing of the vote for next week, and would be happy to allow other business to proceed as soon as an agreement is reached.