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Sunday, October 23, 2016

A bipartisan coalition of 116 U.S. Representatives has signed a letter insisting that President Barack Obama consult with Congress and receive its authorization before taking any military action against Syria.

The letter, which was written by Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA) on Tuesday, asserts that using U.S. military force against Syria without receiving authorization from Congress would be unconstitutional, and a violation of the War Powers Resolution of 1793. The letter has thus far been signed by 116 congresspeople — 98 Republicans, and 18 Democrats — and was scheduled to be sent to President Obama at 3pm, while he was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom in a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. According to The Hill, Rigell chose to extend the signing deadline to later Wednesday evening, to give more of his colleagues time to sign it.

There is no equivalent letter circulating through the Senate, but several senators — including freshmen Democrats Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — have echoed Rigell’s call for the White House to seek congressional authorization.

President Obama is reportedly prepared to order airstrikes against Syria as early as Thursday.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate — and the active engagement of Congress — prior to committing U.S. military assets. 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.

Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.” In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“…President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya—which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration—without prior congressional authorization.”

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional. If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?

If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request. 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.

UPDATE: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has sent a letter of his own to President Obama, requesting that the president “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.” While Speaker Boehner stops short of demanding congressional authorization of any strike, he does ask that President Obama explicitly “address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

This post has been updated.

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  • Urbane_Gorilla

    Why are they urging? They should be demanding that Congress fulfills it’s role. There is nothing about Syria that would allow Obama to unilaterally drag our country kicking and screaming into that abysmal mess. After 2 years and 100,000 Syrian deaths, this can hardly be called an emergency intervention, nor does that Civil War have any bearing on our security.

    • Dominick Vila

      As a person that only supports warfare in cases of self defense, I could not agree with you more, but there are times when our presidents, our government, and the United States only has two options to choose from: remain a world leader or become a pacifist, and largely irrelevant nation along the lines of most Scandinavian countries. It would not bother me too much if we chose the latter, but is that what most Americans really want? I doubt it.
      The sight of innocent women and children asphyxiating and dying is not easy to digest. The biggest problems for me on this issue is that we must make absolutely clear that the chemical attacks were carried out by elements of the al-Assad regime, that whatever actions we take are limited to striking Syrian chemical and biological storage facilities and military/police bases involved in the attacks, that our international partners are on board, and that we don’t put boots on the ground. To accomplish that and to legitimize our involvement, we must define our objectives, we must have a clear definition of what would constitute victory, we must have an exit strategy, we must not target civilians – although some collateral damage is bound to happen – and we must make sure we don’t take sides in the Syrian civil war and get involved in another prolonged war. It would be nice to have UN sanctions, but Russia and China will make sure that does not happen.

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    I don’t think Obama wants to get involved in Syria, but McCain and the warhawks are dragging him to it. Which means that I think this is a very good idea, but not for the reasons you might think. Think about it, if he says “Fine; I’ll wait for your authorization, please get it to me ASAP”, what happens is that the GOP goes up in a fireball.

    Right now, they’re split between the neocons who never saw a war they didn’t like, and the libertarians who don’t want us involved in foreign wars again, period. So that means that RIGHT NOW, the two factions are going to go at it. Hard. In public. At this point, you couldn’t put a quorum of republicans together to whistle ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’in unison. Which means they’re gridlocked internally, and rendered impotent..

    This gives Obama breathing room to put together a coalition or work something out, and he has cover – he’s waiting for Congress to act. “Waiting for Congress” could be the new ‘Waiting for Godot”. If the democrats are smart, they’ll stand out of splatter range and let them go at it. If they’re even smarter, they will vote ‘present’, and not take sides. Yet. That drops everything into the hands of the republicans, who will be unable to vote on where to have lunch.

    So, Obama has cover. He’s not going into Syria because Congress, who INSISTED that he get Congressional approval before going in, won’t give it (because their heads are stuck up their asses). If and when he’s ready, he can look at them and simply say “Look guys, I’m trying here, but since you can’t seem to make the decision you insisted on making it, I’m making it for you.” And what are they going to do?

    So Obama looks reasonable, the GOPers look like squabbling schoolchildren, and when Obama finally puts his foot down, he looks like the only grownup in the room. Win for Obama, big loss for the republicans, and the Syrians are their own problem. (seriously, chem weapons suck, but that’s there, we’re here, and I’m all in favor of letting the locals sort it out)

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      The problem is the President drew a “red line” last year when he threatened action of chemical weapons were used (after being pressured into it by Senators McCain, Graham, McConnell, and the rest of the Hawks). Well, they have been used, and now those same individuals, along with those who used as many deferments as they could to avoid military service in the 60s and early 70s are now beating the drums for war.
      At first, the Republicans in Congress were asking to be consulted. Now they are demanding to give approval to any action. Is this based on the fact that our getting militarily involved in Syria is one of the few things that scores lower in popularity than Congress, itself? And if they do get involved, what corporate tax breaks are going to be eliminated to pay for this action?
      Of course, no matter what action he takes, whether he goes to Congress for approval or not, some of the more right-wing-nut members of Congress will try to find proof of this being an impeachable offense.

      • Dominick Vila

        What bothers me the most about some of the things that are going on around the world is the distinct possibility of domestic opportunists being involved in the mayhem that exists in so many parts of the world. I am not a fan of conspiracies, but I find the release of a provocative anti-Islam video weeks before a presidential election a little more than a coincidence, the subsequent demonstrations were anything but unpredictable, and the planned and well coordinated attack carried out, most likely, by Kaddafi loyalists may not have been as spontaneous as it seems.
        The key is to follow the money, determined who had the most to gain from the Benghazi attack, and who was ready to point fingers immediately after it happened.
        Are people aware of the fact that the Koch brothers have considerable investments in the oil rich Benghazi area?

        • latebloomingrandma

          Figures. Their tentacles are everywhere.

    • Jon Savage


    • howa4x

      Great post

  • Sand_Cat

    It is as unfortunate that few if any of the 91 Republicans would support such a letter if Obama were a white Republican as it is that only 16 Democrats supported it.

  • Dominick Vila

    President Obama should seek congressional approval before he authorizes a strike against Syrian chemical and biological weapons storage facilities and some Syrian military bases suspected to be responsible for the most heinous attacks against civilians.
    Needless to say, he has the constitutional authority to launch a limited attack against an enemy nation, but it would be in our best interest if whatever punitive actions we take have the support of both parties as well as our international allies. Unfortunately, a UN vote is unlike since both Russia and China will veto any action against one of their customers. The latter should be a lessons learned for us, we created the UN Security Council veto in the Soviet era, when we wanted to prevent the Soviet Union from vetoing our interventionist policies, and it is now coming back to hunt us. The time to let the General Assembly decide is now.

    • ceverettham

      Well said.

    • disqus_fsqeoY3FsG

      I agree he should seek congressional approval, it is difficult to get their approval when Boehner/Reid have not called them back into session. It appears they are more concerned about their vacation and “Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” tour than coming back to deal with Syria.

      • Dominick Vila

        True, but it would not be too difficult to call in and meet with senior members of the Intelligence Committee who would have no choice but to attend or face dereliction of duties.

        • Jon Savage

          their WHOLE LIFE is dereliction of duty so y change now?

    • Kathy Carr

      CONGRESS (Republicans) WANT another war

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Personally, I think the President should pick up that red phone on his desk, and say “Vladimir, you need to clean up the mess your boy has been making. If you do, we will stay out of your way.”

    • Ken

      Good idea, this may be the best way to handle most of our overseas problems.

  • docb

    Sure, the repub baggers, who could not find their rear with both hands to help the Nation or the people for 3 years, want to be involved in something they have not even bothered to acknowledge was happening or showed up for briefings on!!!!! Too busy trying to repeal ACA or holding scam meetings on made up Obama scandals.

    You do not bring intransigent children to the Table who spend the tax payer dollars on corporate welfare and temper tantrums. ‘Know nothing do nothing’ baggers are better left to their extended and monthly vacations.

  • flipped54

    Should we as a country that promotes civil rights and condemns genocide stand idly at the sidelines and watch innocent men, women and children indiscriminately be murdered in such a heinous way? Mmmmm… so we have “All the time in the world” to decide? Libya was not a threat to our national security either and the US tilted the balance to the people of that country without “boots on the ground”. I know that we cannot be the World’s police but we can sometimes make a difference so that perhaps good can take root. It can be complicated but there is a clear distinction when genocide is in the mix of this war. There is a international law also that creates a “Red Line” also as to the use of chemical weapons. I think we have a moral duty to help the international community, of which the US is a member, to enforce this law. In what way is the question….

    • A_Schick

      “Should we as a country that promotes civil rights and condemns genocide stand idly at the sidelines and watch innocent men, women and children indiscriminately be murdered in such a heinous way?”

      See: US drone strikes

      • flipped54

        I am talking specifically about chemical weapons for this type of weapon is indiscriminate. Drone strikes are intentionally targeted at specific locations and specific individuals and have highly likely saved American lives and others without sending tens of thousands of troops to minimize a threat. Granted, any type of weapon is meant to kill others and any killing of human beings is an atrocity but this is what our world has created. At the same time there are international laws, which have been on the books for 50 some years, which prohibit the use of chemical weapons. So should this law be enforced or does the international community turn a blind eye?

  • commserver

    What is the international authority for any military action? Is this going to be another Kosovo?

    I don’t think that any military action is warranted by the US. The US can play the same role that it did in Libya: a support one.

  • Jim Myers

    Considering the Republican ideology that any war is a good war, I say leave it up to Congress. This turns a lose – lose situation for President Obama into a CAN’T LOSE proposition for the President.

    On the one hand, if he doesn’t take the case to Congress, he will be vilified on both the Left and the Right. No matter what happens, it will be his fault.

    On the other hand, if he does let Congress decide, the blame shifts to Congress when this blows up in everyone’s face. And, it will.

    If for some diabolical reason Congress decides not to strike against Assad, at least the President will be insulated from the blame.

    • Jim Corcoran

      I fully agree Jim. Let this do nothing congress take all the responsibility concerning any actions with Syria

      • Jim Myers


        In my opinion this is the perfect action for President Obama.

  • howa4x

    I just think the Hawkish senators like Graham and McCain want to get some credit if we hit Syria hard

  • pamfila

    Leave the President alone! He does not have all that much power… Did you forget what we learned in school?, your kids??? checks and balances!!!!

  • silence dogood

    This will be the first time in history that our country goes to war because of its Presidents ego.
    This man is a serious head case.

    • Jim Myers

      You have an incredibly short memory. Just like so many of the weirdo’s on the right.

      Have you ever heard of President George W. Bush?

      Of course,it was more than just ego in his case.

      It was also about raping the American taxpayers to the tune of about TWO TRILLION DOLLARS, money that went to companies like Halliburton, and other Military-Industrial Complex companies.

      Not to mention the loss of thousands of our military personal, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, plus the countless numbers of wounded and maimed for both.


      Also, IF we go to war, it is unlikely to be any where near as large as Iraq OR Afghanistan. Also, it WILL need to be vetted by Congress before it can actually become a full blown war.

      Go sulk somewhere else. Like so many on the right, no matter what President Obama does, you will find some way to paint it as the wrong thing to do.

      Grow a pair and try to deal with the fact that the American population voted for President Obama, not once, but twice.

      Because the Republicans could NOT find a credible candidate to lead our Nation.

  • ridemybroom

    Did geo Bush get permission from congress before he went into Iraq….hell no !.. he attacked Iraq because his precious daddy was almost assonated by Saddam Hussein…the only reason we went into Iraq… That was the bottom line and if the truth be told we should have gone into Saudi Arabia and attacked them…most of the attackers on 9-11 was from SA….Im just saying