Requesting Open and Structured Debate on Just War Principles in the House of Representatives

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 14, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McNERNEY. Mr. Speaker, I introduced H. Res. 1009 in March of this year. This resolution states that it is the sense of the House that the House should debate five of the six commonly accepted principles of the Just War theory to declaring war or authorizing military force.

The other Just War principle is that wars should be authorized by the Nation's legitimate body, which in this case is the House of Representatives.

The reasoning behind H. Res. 1009 is as follows:

One, the U.S. House of Representatives shares the constitutional responsibility to declare war and authorize military force with the United States Senate (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11), but the House has traditionally been the body responsible to declare war or authorize military force.

Two, war and military action will always cause injuries, death, destruction, loss of property, famine, displacements, and other hardships. Because of these privations, military authorizations should only be undertaken with sufficient justification.

Three, weapons of mass destruction are possessed by a substantial and growing number of nations. These weapons may be capable of exterminating humanity.

Four, any conflict has the potential to expand beyond the original intent of the belligerent nations.

Five, the Just War theory of what constitutes the moral justification for a nation to engage in war has been developed over the past two millennia.

Six, some of the Just War principles are incorporated into the United Nations charter, but this has not prevented the many wars that have taken place since the United Nations was established. No nation in recent history has incorporated the principles of Just War theory into its own governing laws or traditions.

Seven, in the United States, an open and transparent debate of the Just War principles would give lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives a structured framework to examine if a call to conflict would be morally justified and may prevent our Nation from entering conflicts that may be harmful to our Nation's interests.

Eight, it is possible that debating the Just War principles in the U.S. House of Representatives before authorizing military force would have kept the United States out of military conflicts in the past that have been harmful to our Nation's interests.

Nine, H. Res. 1009 does not require the U.S. House of Representatives to debate the Just War principles, but essentially recommends that it does so.

Ten, H. Res. 1009 does not limit executive authority, but it does help to ensure that the executive does not overreach.

Eleven, after discussions and inputs from Just War scholars, some improvements to H. Res. 1009 have been noted.

My intention with H. Res. 1009 is to introduce the idea of having an open and structured debate in the House of Representatives on the most serious and grave responsibility of our government, that of declaring war.

In our Nation's history, declarations of war have been done at the request of the President. Having an open and structured debate will lessen the opportunity for misuse of our Nation's military but should not impede our Nation's ability to react to defend our country.

Mr. Speaker, I urge the House of Representatives to adopt this concept in the upcoming 118th Congress of debating the Just War principles before authorizing military action and expect that adopting such a resolution will inspire other nations to do the same, thereby reducing the likelihood of future unjustified wars.