Congress begs for consultation before war begins in Syria

“We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria,” read a letter, signed by 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats in the House. “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.”  Though Congress is not expected to reconvene until Sept. 9, the letter said that members were willing to return early to take up the question of using force in Syria. “We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict,” read the letter.

Representative Scott Rigell said he was motivated to push for the vote because of Mr. Obama’s decision in 2011 to authorize airstrikes in Libya without Congressional permission — a decision that, at the time, also led to bipartisan concern about the role of Congress in approving military intervention. “There really is bad precedent in recent American history in the expansion of the executive branch’s interpretation of the authority the president has, and I believe his conduct in Libya is instructive to us here,” Mr. Rigell said. “I’m deeply troubled by this. I’m hoping the president will see the wisdom, and really the necessity, to follow the clear guidance provided in our Constitution.”   

The question of whether the administration needs Congressional approval before using military force in Syria has bridged party lines, with Democrats and Republicans urging the White House to consult with Congress, at the very least.

 Far more legislators have sought Congressional input. In a statement on Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said there should be “an open debate in Congress” over United States intervention in Syria — and that final approval must go through the House and the Senate.
“The Constitution grants the power to declare war to Congress, not the president,” he said.
So far, White House officials have said only that they would consult with Congress before taking action — but have declined to say if they would seek Congressional authorization.

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