Potential Syria strike divides Congress

Lawmakers to Obama: Attack needs our OK.
Associated Press
Aug 27, 2013

President Barack Obama's possible military intervention in Syria is already running into fierce opposition among some members of Congress, with a growing chorus of Republican and Democratic lawmakers demanding he seek congressional authorization for any strikes against the Assad regime.

In the House, Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia is asking colleagues to sign a letter to Obama urging him to reconvene Congress and seek approval for any military action. And in the Senate, even some who support punishing the Syrian government for launching alleged chemical weapons attacks are joining the call for the president to first gain Congress' approval.

"Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution," Rigell's letter argues.

A copy was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

To make their case, lawmakers are citing the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Passed after President Richard Nixon's secret Vietnam War-era operations, the law reaffirmed Congress' constitutional responsibility to declare war and put a 60-day time limit on the president's ability to take unauthorized, emergency military action. Since then, commanders in chief of both parties have maintained that the resolution is unconstitutional and have regularly disregarded it.

The Obama administration appears likely to use force in the coming days in response to reports last week of a large-scale gas attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in the Damascus suburbs. At least 100 people died.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that evidence of such an attack was "undeniable" and that intelligence strongly pointed to Assad's government — a claim the Syrian leader called "preposterous." Kerry said that international standards against chemical weapons "cannot be violated without consequences," outlining the clearest justification yet for U.S. military action, most likely coming through sea-launched cruise missiles on regime targets.

After a decade of costly and deadly fighting in the Muslim world, Americans strongly oppose any new U.S. war in the region. Opinions in Congress are mixed as well. Republicans are split between hawks and tea party isolationists. Democrats are divided between advocates of humanitarian intervention and those who fear that even limited action risks sucking the United States into another conflict.

Despite the divides, legislators of varying political hue are trying to reassert what they claim is their power to authorize the use of force.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a former Democratic Party chairman, said the Assad government must be held accountable for its indiscriminate violence and "despicable" chemical attacks. But he urged that proper procedures be followed.

"Absent an imminent threat to United States national security, the U.S. should not be engaged in military action without congressional approval," Kaine said. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, has made a similar argument.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked only that Obama present his case to the American people and consult with Congress. "He needs to explain what vital national interests are at stake and should put forth a detailed plan with clear objectives and an estimated cost for achieving those objectives," he said.

That doesn't seem near enough for tea party favorite Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who has issued a series of tweets arguing that unauthorized strikes against Syria would be unconstitutional and illegal. He is putting pressure on leadership in his own party to call Congress back into session for a debate and vote before any such action occurs.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is on the opposite end of the spectrum. "I think the president has the right to attack without the approval or consultation of Congress," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "But a wise leader would reach out."

Lawmakers are scheduled to return from a five-week recess on Sept. 9.

It's unclear what impact all the activity will yield.

When the U.S. acted with allies against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, Obama maintained military operations for more than three months without congressional authorization. He said the U.S. wasn't violating the War Powers Resolution because Americans were supporting a NATO-led operation and weren't engaged in full-blown hostilities. Despite criticism from mainly Republican lawmakers, Obama suffered no serious repercussions.


AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.



The New World Czar

"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. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action." Senator Barack Obama- 2007


Let's just hope that he doesn't use false information, such as the presence of WMDs when none actually exist, to gain support for getting us into a war. That would be an obviously impeachable offense. Good thing that could never happen, huh?


bushes big mistake was giving the enemy time (30 days?) to move "suspected" weapons..


They must have moved them to the best hiding place on the planet. Still looking?


Possibly Syria?

Darwin's choice

Fool !


^^The usual Obamabots who condemned Bush for sending troops to Iraq, and claimed to be against war, now support our President intervening in a countries civil war. The hypocrisy of the Democrat party is almost blinding.


Wrong again GI Joe. I say let the Arab countries handle it. It's not our responsibility to save people that do not even like America!


Re: "Let's just hope that he doesn't use false information,"

Yep! There's absolutely NO possibility that the most transparent administration in the history of the Republic would EVER LIE to the American people (cough, cough).

Kinda makes former Speaker of the House Pelosi look like the supreme idiot that she is.

"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," - Ms. Pelosi



Whatever the President does in this case, I will support him. I may not agree with all of his policies, but when deciding whether or not to send our troops in harms way, I am an American first, then I am a Libertarian. I'll be praying for Obama to make a wise choice based on the information he is given.

Darwin's choice

Fool too!


Not a fool Darwin, just a realist. I support my President even though I do not agree with his policies. We are Americans first and foremost. If he decides to send our troops (and our children) into harm's way, I pray he has the best information and I will support our troops. I know many Vietnam vets that came home and were spit upon because the had the courage to serve, I will not take part in that. If the President sends them into this quagmire, I will support them.

Darwin's choice

I'll forever support our troops and veterans, but not the fools who throw them away.....!


I'll always support our troops. However, I will not always support the President, especially if he's sending our troops into unneeded danger. I couldn't stand Bush for this reason, and Obama is pretty much Bushing it up with his foreign policy as well.

Licorice Schtick

Refreshing to see support for this difficult decision.

Remember during the Bush administration when questioning anything about his foreign policy was framed as tantamount to "putting our troops in danger?"

Republicans have a double standard. Right now their strategy is to condemn everything the Democratic President does or doesn't do. It's absurd. We need to get right-wing extremists out of Congress.


^^Another Obamabot hypocrite.


I agree


I agree


No stick....Bush went through the proper chain of command with Iraq. Obama just bypasses everyone and does what he wants. Huge difference.


I agree!


Anyone who saw video of the innocent victims suffering would not hesitate to take military action regardless of political affiliation.


Here is an idea. Send your loved ones off to war. You should go too.


It is a middle east problem. Let the nations over there clean up the mess. After all, many of those nations have American military equipment and have been trained by us. Let them fight.


EXACTLY! We have a history of getting involved in places that aren't representative of a direct imminent threat to us. Hitler was a European problem, and Assad is a Middle Eastern problem. The end. (For those of you who are a tad slow on the uptake, I might be speaking just a little sarcastically here...)

There are only two real issues that I'm seeing here:

1. Obama, WHATEVER the rationale to stage action against Syria, needs to go through Congress as Constitutionally mandated, and

2. If Obama can rationalize reasons to go after any part of Syria and/or its government, then how does he explain the failure to act in parts of Africa where people have suffered comparably for YEARS now? (And yes, I'm well aware that neither Clinton nor Bush took action in Africa, either. All that proves is that those claiming we're acting less on behalf of humanity than we are on behalf of oil may have a point.)


Stop sending our young people off to war in foreign lands!

The Industrial Military Complex needs more young American soldiers for cannon fodder and bigger profits for the rich ruling class.

"President Eisenhower was ridiculed as a conspiracy theorist for his famous remark about the “military-industry complex.” But Edward Snowden’s leaks have reminded us it’s real, it’s bigger and more wasteful than ever, and its bloat can even threaten our national security."

Send the rich ruling class off to the wars.


Absolutely true. They are taking retirement benefits away from retired military as we speak. The reasoning? We need more money to "Modernize." In other words, we are stealing from the working class and retirees to pay billions of dollar to rich defense contractors. I have an idea, stop getting us involved on other peoples wars, and cut the bloated DOD civilian workforce which currently stands at 718,000.


Ah yes, speaking of redistribution! How does it feel?


Send Obama, Kerry and anyone else who supports going to war. Stop sending our young people off to war. History is going to repeat itself again and again. Stop meddling in other countries. Syria did not attack the US.


"Obama approves military aid for Syrian rebels, deepening U.S. involvement in bloody civil war"

The US needs to stop sticking its nose into other countries.


I agree..