February 23, 2022

Congresswoman Lee & Colleagues Urge POTUS to Seek Congressional Approval for Military Involvement in Russia-Ukraine Conflict

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, joined Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Warren Davidson (OH-08), and 43 Members of Congress on a letter urging President Biden to receive authorization from Congress before involving U.S. armed forces in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“We strongly urge your administration to respect the separation of powers, U.S. law, and Congress’s constitutional war powers authority,” the lawmakers wrote. “Should your administration seek to introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or decline to remove any U.S. military personnel currently deployed inside Ukraine from unauthorized hostilities or imminent hostilities, Congress stands ready to deliberate over the potentially monumental implications of such scenarios. The American people, through their representatives in Congress, deserve to have a say before U.S. troops are placed in harm’s way or the U.S. becomes involved in yet another foreign conflict.”

The letter to President Biden underscored Congress’s constitutional and legal war powers authority, including the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to finance and declare war, and the War Powers Resolution states that Congressional approval is required before the “introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” The letter urged President Biden to make the case to Congress before U.S. military involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Erik Sperling, executive director of the advocacy organization Just Foreign Policy commented on the letter, “With the risk of war over Ukraine escalating rapidly, this level-headed bipartisan letter reaffirming that only Congress can authorize military action is very timely. While the Biden administration has ruled out sending additional troops, even allowing U.S. advisers and special forces to remain in harm's way in Ukraine without authorization creates the potential for direct conflict between the world’s leading nuclear powers. Regardless of one’s view on how the U.S. should respond to tensions over Ukraine, these are precisely the critical questions that the framers of our Constitution sought to entrust to the American people through their representatives in Congress.”

Marcus Stanley, Advocacy Director for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft stated, "A direct military conflict between the two largest nuclear powers on Russia's border would be incredibly risky and dangerous. The Biden Administration has wisely stated its intent to avoid U.S. military involvement in the Ukraine conflict, but the situation on the ground is chaotic. It is critical that the President get explicit and official Congressional authorization before taking any steps involving U.S. military personnel in Ukraine, as required by the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution."

Cavan Kharrazian, Foreign Policy Campaigner for Demand Progress said, "We applaud the signatories of this letter for rightfully asserting Congress's jurisdiction over the involvement of US armed forces in hostilities. By no means should the President put American troops — including embedded military advisors and special forces — into harm's way in Ukraine without a debate and vote in Congress. While Congress remains divided on many issues, we are glad to see such a diverse range of representatives defending our Constitutional system of checks and balances when it comes to war."

The letter has been endorsed by a diverse collection of organizations: Just Foreign Policy, Demand Progress, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Concerned Veterans for America, Common Defense, Peace Action, RootsAction, FreedomWorks, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Heritage Action, and Global Zero.

Click here to read the letter as delivered.


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest ranking Black woman in the U.S. Congress.