The White House has so far failed to respond to a letter signed by 56 bipartisan members of Congress asking President Obama to get congressional approval for an attack on Syria, despite Obama himself affirming the constitutional necessity of such an authorization during his 2008 campaign.
The letter, written by Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell, strongly urges Obama, “to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria, adding, “Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.”
It goes on to stress that launching an offensive act of war when the United States is not directly threatened with a green light from Congress is unconstitutional, citing Obama’s decision to order the use of “221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles,” against Libya in 2011 with zero congressional approval.
Rigell is asking Obama to reconvene Congress so that lawmakers can carefully study the evidence and the necessity for the United States to become directly embroiled in the conflict in Syria.
According to Rep. Rigell’s official Twitter page, 56 members of Congress from both parties have signed onto the letter, a number which is growing by the hour.
However, on Sunday, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that Congress would not be consulted on the move and that lawmakers would have to “assent” to it at a later date.
It’s highly unlikely that Obama will adhere to the constitution by seeking congressional approval for any assault on Syria given his attitude under similar circumstances before the 2011 attack on Libya.
When Obama faced criticism from Congress over the 2011 attack, he churlishly dismissed the issue, remarking, “I don’t even have to get to the Constitutional question,” before claiming that his authority came from NATO and the UN.
According to Congressman Walter Jones, this amounted to “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution.”
Obama’s hostility towards getting Congressional approval before launching military attacks in ironic given that both he and Vice President Joe Biden made reference to that very necessity during their 2008 campaign. “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,” Obama said in 2008.
Passed after the Vietnam War, the War Powers Resolution states that the President’s powers as commander-in-chief should be “exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States.”
Obama’s rebuff of Congress during the attack on Libya was followed by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s astounding claim that the United Nations and NATO have supreme authority over the actions of the United States military.
During a March 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Panetta responded to a question about whether the administration would consult Congress before future conflicts by responding, “You know, our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress.”
The difference this time around is that Obama is not even bothering to claim his moral authority from the UN, never mind Congress, with the US indicating that it will launch cruise missile strikes within days without first obtaining a UN Security Council resolution.