As invading Mexico becomes a mainstream Republican Party position, a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a measure on Thursday that would bar a U.S. president from unilaterally taking military action against the country.
The response to the war powers resolution from the office of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. — who has led recent efforts to reduce the U.S. military’s foreign entanglements — highlights populist Republicans’ growing pains in their emerging anti-war coalition with progressive Democrats.
At first, Gaetz’s office told The Intercept that he would oppose the amendment. In a follow-up statement attributed to the lawmaker, a spokesperson wrote: “Mexico is a captive narco state. I support the amendment and support passing an Authorized Use of Military Force against Mexico.”
The measure was introduced by Democratic Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois; Joaquin Castro of Texas; and Nydia Velázquez of New York as an amendment to the 2024 Department of Defense appropriations bill.
The amendment draws on the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which was established to limit the president’s authority to wage war. It would bar the use of the military budget with respect to Mexico without congressional authorization, “including for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities in Mexico, into situations in Mexico where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, or into Mexican territory, airspace, or waters while equipped for combat.”
García told The Intercept that the amendment was spurred in part by the “escalating chorus of Republican calls to invade Mexico.”
“Armed interventions and the humanitarian crises they inevitably engender are central reasons why people leave their home countries in the first place,” García said. “Invading Mexico would endanger a key partner, increase the chaos in which cartels thrive, and force large numbers of people to come to our border fleeing violence — far from addressing the challenges that Republicans purport to care about.”
Donald Trump has led the calls for war, enlisting advisers to come up with ways to attack Mexican drug cartels — with or without Mexico’s permission. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis promised he would send military forces to Mexico on “day one” if he is elected president. Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman-turned-presidential-hopeful, said he would use “military force to decimate the cartels, Osama bin Laden-style, Soleimani-style” in the first six months of his presidency. Former CIA agent Will Hurd — who at one point was the only Black Republican in the House — said this week that he wants to “dismantle cartel and human smuggling networks by treating them the same way we treated the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”
Meanwhile in Congress, 21 Republicans — led by Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Michael Waltz — introduced legislation in January to authorize the use of military force against Mexican cartels. In March, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced he would introduce legislation to “set the stage” for military force in Mexico. And House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer said it was a “mistake” that then-President Trump didn’t move forward with his reported hopes to “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs,” and then lie and pretend the U.S. was not behind the attack.
Velázquez said in a statement that military operations in Mexico would be an “unmitigated disaster.” Before the idea goes any further, she added, “we need levelheaded policymakers to speak up and clarify that Congress will not support this. This amendment will ensure that no funding is allocated to these extreme policies.”
Over the last several years, congressional progressives have brought forward a number of war powers resolutions to force lawmakers to contend with U.S. entanglements abroad. In 2019, Congress passed a bipartisan resolution to stop U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, only for Trump to veto it. (Last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders unsuccessfully tried to revive the effort.)
Earlier this year, Gaetz introduced two separate war powers resolutions, both of which garnered significant GOP support but ultimately failed. Fifty-two Republicans voted in favor of his resolution directing the president to remove all forces from Somalia, and 47 did the same with regard to Syria. The concern with the haphazard use of military force, however, may not extend to Mexico.
The Intercept contacted 18 House Republicans who have previously supported war powers resolutions. Most did not respond to questions whether Congress would need to authorize war with Mexico.
“Many Trump-aligned Republicans have rightly been adamant that only Congress can authorize war and military action. Dozens of them have voted to withdraw U.S. troops from unauthorized wars in Syria, Somalia, and Yemen,” said Erik Sperling, executive director of the advocacy organization Just Foreign Policy. “It would be a scandal if those who want a war in Mexico would now allow a future President to violate the Constitution and wage unauthorized war. They should support this important Garcia-Castro amendment and make clear that any future president will have to come to Congress before taking us to war in Mexico or anywhere else.”
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar was among the only members to respond to The Intercept’s inquiry. Instead of addressing the necessity of congressional authorization for use of military force in Mexico, he attacked the Biden administration. “Joe Biden and the incompetent Secretary Mayorkas are complicit in their failure to protect Americans from the invasion along the southern border. I’ve repeatedly said that we must defend our border by any and all legal means necessary, including deploying our military,” said Gosar, who voted in favor of the war powers resolutions for Somalia and Syria. “Every member of congress should vote and be on record of supporting efforts to secure our border or continue to support this invasion.”
Crenshaw’s office pointed to his bill from January about authorizing force against Mexican cartels and did not respond to a question about the Democrats’ amendment.
Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett’s office did not speak to his stance on the amendment. “Since it would currently require Congressional authorization, Congressman Burchett would not support changing the status quo to give the current president more unilateral decision-making authority in this area.”
New York Rep. George Santos was more cautious than his Republican colleagues. “Of course we want congressional authorization for any military action,” said Santos, who also voted in favor of the war powers resolutions for Somalia and Syria. “However militarization of the immigration crisis should be an absolute last resort.”
Congress is set to debate the appropriations bill when lawmakers return to Washington in September.